On my return from Israel, I had a less-than-glamorous experience trying to get from New York City back to Indiana. After a week of grumbling to friends, I’ve decided to channel my frustration towards something more constructive.
Some of the projects I read about surrounding the National Day of Civic Hacking inspired me to dream up an app that could have helped and maybe even prevented my air travel woes. I don’t have the coding skills to make this happen, but I’ll share my idealistic vision in case someone who does wants to lend a hand to harried travelers everywhere.
Picture this: you go to check in for your flight at a self-service kiosk and get a message that you need to speak with someone at the ticket counter, because your flight has been delayed. The line to the ticket counter not only winds through the stanchions but stretches across the entire length of the terminal. Per the airline’s recommendation, you’ve arrived more than two hours early for your flight, but it will take you three hours to get through the line. Plus, your flight has been delayed, meaning you will miss your connecting flight.
While waiting in line, you call the airline’s customer service number to see if there is a later connecting flight you could make or a different route you could take to get home. After waiting on hold for a half hour, you finally connect with a customer service representative who has good news: there is another flight to your connecting airport that was scheduled to leave half an hour ago, but has been delayed and is now scheduled to take off in a half hour. But the woman on the phone can’t book you on that flight, because technically it was supposed to have left already. If you talk to someone at the ticket counter, they may be able to re-book you.
It will take you another two hours to get through the line to the ticket counter. You stop two different employees who happen to be walking by the line, explain the situation, and ask if there is any way you can jump the line to make the earlier flight. They tell you to wait. The parties both in front of you and behind you are facing similar problems: delayed flights, missed connections, other flights they could be redirected to if they could just make it through the line.
Now picture this: an app that takes data on all flights from that airport to the connecting airport, including the most updated departure time for delayed flights, and allows you to re-book if there are seats available. Going a step further, the app could also pull data on all airports with flights to your final destination, to see if there is a way to re-route you to a different connecting airport. Finally, a separate line at the ticket counter exclusively for re-bookings would both help delayed travelers who are trying to make connections and speed the check-in process for those who aren’t re-booking by filtering longer interactions to a separate service representative.
I know that’s a lot of information to sift through, but I think with today’s technology it can be done, if not now than in the near future. And I think both travelers and airline representatives would rejoice at such a solution.