AirTran, You’re Killing Me

Thursday, May 27th, 2010

Calling in to an automated telephone system, you almost always just want to speak to a human. After wading through a sea of button-presses, you finally get to the right department. “To better assist you”, that automated woman you just want to throttle until she can no longer calmly but perpetually stymie your attempts at resolution says, “please enter your 16 digit account number”. You laboriously enter this number, then wait while the call finally rings through to a real-live human who might even be on the same continent as you.

Of course, when you finally do reach someone, John or Jane or Ranjit has no idea who you are nor what you’re calling about. So you again provide your account number digit by digit, all the while wondering what the point of this, what the point of anything, is. Time passes, the progress of human civilization is slowed, and the global happiness index declines.

At least on the Internet, information can be passed around with ease. For instance, when you receive an email like this to check in for your flight:

AirTran Email

That handy “Check In Now” button will pass along all the requisite information. Once you click it, you’ll be logged in automatically, and ready to print out your boarding pass:

AirTran Check-in Site

Or…not. The page which loads is devoid of any useful information. The system has no idea who you are and checking in manually seems to be the only option. But what was the URL for that “Check In Now” button, exactly? Was it just a link to AirTran’s standard check-in page, with no customization, despite all that information being included elsewhere in the email?

http://ebyepass.airtran.com/FindReservation.aspx?process=ExternalReservation&depcity=BOS&confirmcode=KGGLUE

Oh come on! Look at that:

depcity=BOS

confirmcode=KGGLUE

Canny as you surely are, dear reader, it is no doubt obvious to you that the first bit indicates “Departure City: Boston” and the second provides “Confirmation Code: KGGLUE”. Now what did they want on that check-in page?

AirTran Check-in Site

It’s all there, AirTran, everything you want!


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