Today I saw a chopped down tree that had grown into a fence. It’s really neat. When the tree was small it grew through the fence. As it grew older it expanded into the fence, growing in and around the wire. Now that it’s cut down it looks really funky hanging from the fence.
Airlines today have left paper tickets and gone over to electronic tickets. Which is the way I think it should be, since I’m a student of informatics. However, there is a major difference between a real ticket and an e-ticket.
This e-ticket system was invented some time ago, which is evident by the 1950′s UI you’ll see if you peek at one of their screens. It is time proven and seems to be working. A travel agency has access to this system and can make a reservation and issue a ticket through this 16-bit commodore era design.
When you go to your travel agency, they look up an itinerary for you and make a booking. After the booking is confirmed they can issue you an e-ticket and you are ready to go. The booking part is mostly transparent, the e-ticket, not so much.
It’s a hidden system. Like the block system on your hard drive. You know it’s there. You trust it. But if something happens you won’t know until you open the file. This is in essence how the e-ticket works. You get a number, and that’s it. You can’t see what is behind the number, you just have to trust that the ticket number is the actual ticket and not something else.
Because here is the trick. As a travel agency I can issue you a booking, with a booking reference and everything. You can log in online and see that everything is confirmed (eg. Travelports viewtrip.com) and you think you are ready to fly, but you can still be missing a ticket for parts of your flight. But you won’t know this until you’re at the airport and ready to fly. Then some low-paid customer service agent will tell you that you don’t have a ticket and you’ll need to pay a million bucks to board the plane. Yes, they can just name a number and if you need the flight you’ll have to pay.
For all they care you could be stuck on the north pole and they’ll only accept pelts. Good luck shooting those polar bears.
So in essence. You can pay for a reservation, not get a ticket. Check online and see that everything is fine. Show up at the check-in and have the clerk tell you: “Sorry, we accidentally deleted your e-ticket. There is nothing we can do. However you can go over there [pointing] and buy a new ticket. Hopefully it won’t be deleted by the time you get back here to the check-in desk”.
I can’t think of an appropriate analogy. But I guess it’s like going running after the bus and having it stop and reverse over you breaking half the bones in your body. That’s at least what I want to do to Iberia and British Airways. Newest members of my No Fly list, together with SABENA (such-a-bad-experience-never-again).