British Midland's – BMI – Dirty Little Online Checkin Secret

Flew Dublin – Heathrow again last week – this time with BMI (British Midland International). It’s what all Java consultants do – pop on the plane to London to see a client. Now I like BMI, not least because they provide a bit of competition for Aer Lingus. I like Web Checkin. A lot. See my post on how to use Web Checkin to solve Dublin Airport’s problems. But BMI have a (bad) secret about their online check-in that they don’t tell you until after you have paid for your flight.

BMI Logo
Online or Web checkin means you print your boarding card before you leave home. It means you arrive at the airport , walk straight through security and enjoy a coffee while waiting for your flight to board. For Aer Lingus it’s great on a day trip; print both boarding cards the night before you leave. For BMI there’s a glitch; you cannot print your return boarding card until after you arrive in London.

What? On your busy-day-with-client-not-one-second-to-spare you are expected to start printing pieces of paper. What is worse, you only find this out after you pay your money. Called the Flight Helpdesk ‘we have a lot of people complaining about that Sir’. Mail to BMI customer service, no reply.

The moral of this story is not to complain about BMI (although here’s my Ajax related Rant about Scandanavian Airlines if that’s your thing , or Mulley’s lost baggage saga if you prefer). And yes, I should be glad of a choice of flights to Heathrow (see Limerick Bloggerand Bock the Robber)

No, the moral of the story is that IT systems (yes the geeky bits) can have a huge impact on customers in traditional business (you know, the ones that pay you money). Being the helpful people we are, we’ll even show BMI how to fix this using Business Rules. Somewhere, deep in the bowels of the BMI system code, Someone, a long long time again decided ‘no one will ever want to check in before they leave’ . And now that it’s spaghetti code, it can’t be fixed, leaving a lot of unhappy customers.

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4 comments

  1. Donncha O Caoimh · October 16, 2007

    Or what about British Airways who delayed my luggage on the way out to San Francisco and the way back.
    Next year I’m flying anyone buy BA!

    Yes, I can see how BMI’s system would make sense to a programmer sitting at a desk. “Sure, they’ll pick up their tickets on the way back.” I think the BA web checkin was the same. 😦

  2. admin · October 16, 2007

    Donncha,

    So it’s official – PHP gets you further than Java 🙂

    The point is not if that was a good decision; it’s more how do you find the code (when it’s buried) to review it in 5 years time?

    Paul

  3. David Bradshaw · September 7, 2008

    Going from London to the Netherlands and back today, BMI won’t allow me to check in for the return journey. So BMI’s incompetence isn’t unique to the London to Dublin route.

    My tip – if you’re going to central London/the City, use either BA or Air France to London City Airport from Dublin, so you avoid both BMI’s incompetence (both Air France and BA let you check in for the return – what time before the return may vary). You also avoid the inevitable delays at Heathrow. Best of all, it takes all of 2 minues to get out of City Airport and into a taxi or onto the Docklands Light Railway.

    David

  4. Paul Browne · September 15, 2008

    David,

    Glad that you’ve found a way around this ‘bug’, even if it means flying with another airline!

    Trouble is , there is no ‘feedback loop’ – I’m not counting on our rants on this blog getting read by BMI anytime soon. So, the bad decision to cut corners will still broken, and customers will ‘leak’ away without BMI realising why.

    Of course, BMI’s priority is probably sorting our the high cost of fuel, or failing that, merging with Ethiad airlines.

    Paul

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