Saturday, February 01, 2014

This fare is just for you...

A couple of weeks ago Airbus released an updated price list. The cheapest of their toys is $72 million. The A380 is slightly out of my price range at over $400 million. Now if you want a smaller Embraer, you’d be looking at price tag of $16 to $40 million.

The point is that airlines spend serious cash on their business. They also tend to lose money and be subsidized or bailed out by public funds.  The newer and larger models have touch screens for every seat where you have the choice of watching a random episode of Everybody Loves Raymond, a week-old news update, play a video game with a joystick that can be pulled from your armrest, or fall asleep to a looping 90-second Tango track as happened with me the last time I was on a plane. I don’t think they call them joysticks anymore. Personally, I think the joystick industry peaked with red-buttoned vertical model whose base was equipped with suction cups. It’s been downhill since then as they eliminated the stick and added buttons. Don't get me started on the Wii thingie.

There is point to this rant, I think. Oh yeah, airlines…

So 1400h on Friday I show up at the offices of a major European airline to change a ticket reservation. When I book a flight on a computer born in the internet era, I use a mouse to click about 10 clicks max on a user friendly interface and voila I’m booked. The mouse at the airline office is just desk decoration. The customer service agent plays a one-thousand keystroke symphony on their keyboard before you even tell them what you’re there for. At the point every word you say is translated into an untwitterable code and inputted into the DOS interface with a blinking cursor speeding left to right on the screen before jumping one line down and doing the same routine over and over for about two hours. At 1600h, and what seemed like a million keystrokes later, I was informed that there are no available seats for my fare all year. She actually manually looked into every flight for every remaining day of the year and my 2 letter fare code did not appear. There were hundreds of other 2 letter fare codes, but apparently they all belong to some fare code collector who doesn’t believe in sharing.

From what I understood, the different airport taxes have 3 letter codes. These happen to be available for everyone.

By the way, it's been over a week and my lost bag has still to be converted into traceable code. But that's a different airline. Conviasa of Venezuela doesn't even believe in timetables. If a flight lifts off on the same day it's scheduled to fly on, they chalk it up as a success. 

I would say the airline reservation system needs to be simplified and modernized. I know it’s part of the scam airlines run in order to make money, but I can’t imagine how paying someone for 2 hours to type code into the system where in the end we end up just where we started is a good way to spend public funds.

If they really want to preserve endangered species of electronics, they can keep their dot-matrix printers. Now that is music I can listen to on loop for hours.

Ok, here's a minute from last night's performance by the Orquesta Tipica Fernandez Fierro.

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