There is just about nothing less rewarding than using social networking during an airline travel experience. No sense in broadcasting one’s litany of petty indignities. Better to take the stoic approach of a Brit. In the midst of such a scenario right at this moment, what strikes most vividly is the blog that the airline I am travelling on (ok, was to fly on this afternoon) is dedicated to letting customers listen to company employees bloviate about new and exciting changes to benefit the traveller.
Here is a suggestion to airlines: rather than invest in social networking, invest in the infrastructure to keep the information about flights synchronized. There is no hurry today, which allowed me time to surf channels for accurate information about my delayed (cancelled, maybe) flight – and it’s an eye opener. The flight disappeared entirely from the big board in the airport, but not at the gate. The SMS that was to come to my mobile device never arrived to let me know of a delay. Nor has any update come over the past hours. The poor gate agent knows precious little about what is going on. I dialed the airlines “800″ number, and the customer service agent gave me a morale boosting update that the flight was delayed 1 hour 45 minutes. I told him that the gate agent had already guaranteed us that the information I was now hearing could not possibly be correct. She was right. The gentleman on the phone, “Well, what can I tell you sir, that is what I’m seeing here on my screen.”
The airport terminal is lovely, and there is plenty of food and water ($4.99 for the large bottles). There is free WiFi and the bandwidth is terrific. I went on the airline’s website to see what they might have for me in the way of update. “DELAY.” OK, so far so good. But the amount of the delay differed from the gate agent who differed from the phone agent, and there was no Twitter option and the SMS never arrived.
For anyone who flies, delays are a part of life that one learns to integrate into the larger Gestalt of that wonderful gift called global travel. Get a grip or stay home. On the other hand, it would be so much nicer if information delivery were more consistent, harmonized, available. Maybe a connection to the area weather? Maybe all of the channels would have similar, and reliable, information? Perhaps a candid summary of ones alternatives? Will I be stranded in the terminal, or is a hotel covered? Is there another airline I might transfer over to? Which? And if you want to engage in social networking, maybe connect the folks on the flight to one another – at least they might share information or tips.
So, all is fine. The fruit salad is yummy. The coffee is abundant. I have a great book that I’m in the middle of, and eventually something will give. But as a customer, one can’t escape the feeling of being on a deserted information island, surrounded by water, with unknown and unknowable coordinates. Bring on the Social Media, but after the information kinks are worked out.