AA’s Mobile Flight Updates: Good Idea, Dodgy Execution

When it comes to complaining about air travel, I agree with Louis CK: we’re a bunch of whiners. So this post is definitely not about how much I hate American Airlines (I don’t; I’ve flown over 3 million miles with them). It is, however, about how supposedly helpful Flight Updates could be improved by actually being helpful.

Yesterday, my daughter and I flew back to Chicago on a 12:50 flight from my parent’s home in Hershey, PA.  At nine, I got a reassuring mobile alert that the flight was on time.

When we got to the airport, we learned that due to weather in Chicago (I know, I know, that’s unheard of at O’Hare…), our departure was pushed back a bit over an hour to 2pm. Simple, no problem, I get it.

Dennis Ryan, Advertising, OLSONOnce we were fully alerted that the flight was delayed over an hour, AA.com started sending update notices to my cell…at ten minute intervals.  Seven of them actually, all of them dated three minutes AFTER the supposedly new departure time. I couldn’t figure it out—why were they repeatedly alerting me after the fact?

Back on Central Time this morning, I took screen caps of the reminders to illustrate this story and realized it was a simple programming issue: the Updates were sent out from the Midwest to the East, thus they were an hour off and made precious little sense. I still don’t know why they launched a new one every ten minutes but at least their timing didn’t seem quite so ridiculous.

Did this episode make me irate? No. Was it a hassle? Not really. It was just a reminder that technology is only ever as good as the data—or human programmer–behind it.



By Dennis Ryan, CCO, OLSON


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