We need better Web information on flights!

In England people go to Heathrow airport because the BA website tells them to do so, yet when they get there they hear a message telling them to go home! The Times even published my letter saying that we need a web site which collects and correlates all available information on flights!

My opinion is that airline and airport web sites, including that of Geneva airport (about which I have several times written a critical blog) almost invariably seem unable in times of stress to provide accurate, timely and easily locatable information on flights. In today's edition of The Times (Tuesday, 21 December 2010), the various articles on the current deplorable situation at London's Heathrow airport seem to reinforce this opinion. Their editor has also done me the honour of publishing, in their letters column, an extract of an e-mail which I sent to them yesterday, so one can perhaps assume that I am not talking absolute rubbish.

The article in The Times, like my letter, might or might not be available to you via their Web site, since this site is now partially restricted to paying clients. Thus, I will quote a relevant extract from their article entitled

This is no longer about snow, it's about incompetence!

Only a third of scheduled flights are expected to operate until 6am tomorrow. But no one seems to have told the passengers, who continued to pour into terminals only to be greeted by a Tannoy message telling them to go straight back home.

Many were the same passengers who had just been told by BA website and text messages that their flights were on and they should go to the airport.

Here in Geneva I already pointed out that the airport website requested that passengers do not come to the airport before consulting the website of their chosen airline, yet many of these airlines, in particular easyJet, gave no information on non-cancelled flights other than the time at which they were originally scheduled. The airport's own information on particular flights, when one could actually get connected to access it, was not always correct nor up-to-date.

This might, or might not, be linked with the fact that many airports and airlines (including, I am led to believe, Geneva) outsource their website, thus sometimes adding in an extra layer at a time where quick and accurate updating is required. In my letter to The Times, relating to this need for accurate information, I wrote the following :-

The first priority in any crisis is to tell all those affected what is happening so that they can take rational decisions. The internet is an ideal vehicle for information, yet the websites of the airports and airline operators are inadequate. What we need is one universal website which, when given a flight number, will collect and correlate information from all other relevant websites and present this information in a simple manner, telling people what their options are and including a link to a page specific to each option.

I did also suggest that it could be an opportunity for a young and skilled entrepreneur, perhaps in the place where the Web was invented, to create what I could call

Google flight-view

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