Airline IT failures

If the airlines are losing money, they have no one to blame but themselves. The systems they use to process their customers are so arcane and inefficient it is a wonder that they work at all. On Friday, I was in New England, which was having a typical bad weather day. I had a noon flight out of Manchester, New Hampshire, and discovered via email at 9 AM that Delta had rebooked me on a flight out of Boston instead, also leaving at noon.

There were so many problems that it is hard to list them all. The email looked suspiciously like a phishing email gimmick--please logon to the Delta site to check your flight status. I tried to call Delta but after a half hour on hold, gave up. I logged into Delta (I am a Delta frequent flier), but could not print a boarding pass--no explanation. At nine-thirty, I decided that I better head to Boston, even though I had not been able to verify the change.

When I got to Boston, I could not print out a boarding pass from the Delta kiosks, because the system "could not find my ticket." Oh joy. I had to get at the back of a very long line to go wait for a ticket agent, and realized I would miss my flight--it was going to take an hour or more to go through the line. I was finally able to flag down a passing Delta agent who let me jump the line and get help. After the agent "found" my ticket, she spent a full minute punching away at her terminal just to print a boarding pass. Huh?

Repeat the problems I had by thousands or tens of thousands of passengers every single day, adding in all the extra Delta staff time needed to work around bad systems, and you have passengers fleeing to other airlines and greatly increased staff costs. My ticket was obviously in the system, since it was able to send me an email, but how can one terminal or access point not be able to "find" it? This is a catastrophic failure by the Delta IT department, and the whole group should be sacked for nearly bankrupting the company with garbage software.

Too many IT departments love expensive, hard to use and hard to maintain systems because it justifies their existence, justifies larger staffs, and justifies bigger budgets. Don't let IT staff hijack your school system, business, or organization. Demand excellence, simple systems, and low costs.

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