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.
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.
I don’t think these guys will be joining the Web2Ireland (even Web 2.0) group anytime soon. Basically , their website says ‘We couldn’t be bothered using any of the Ajax toolkits out there, so we’ll get you Mr Customer to do all the work for us’. I wonder what their look-to-book ratio is ( I used to do some work for Aer Lingus – LinkedIn Profile).
Scandanavian Airlines (SAS) Website.
Hint to SAS: Here is how to fix this (pdf), or hire us and we’ll fix it for you.
Or if you prefer , reassure yourself that you’re not the only airline with Ajax problems.
More blogposts on Ajax.
So you know what Ajax is and you need to convince your boss of the benefits that it would bring to your web project?
I’ve just put online two new whitepapers explaining what Ajax is, how to use it within your existing project and how to talk to your boss about it.
The first is in the current (December / January) edition of Business Plus Magazine, but for non Irish readers, is available for download here. It’s aimed at business readers and gives examples of a travel websites that are already using Ajax and Web 2.0 to increase Sales to customers.
The 2nd Article is more technical, and was previously published on Sun’s Java Website. It introduces Ajax and shows how to integrate it with older ‘legacy’ applications. In this case the ‘legacy’ technology is Java and the Struts web framework, but it would work equally well for PHP, ASP, .Net , Visual Basic and other technologies. This article is available for download on the main FirstPartners.net website.
Fellow Louth Man Gerry McGovern has just published his latest monthly newsletter.
Gerry is very strong on web site usability. Some items that are obvious when you see them (but you could spend years trying to figure out through trial and error) are:
- Have your web site do one thing and one thing well.
- Cheap is good on the web (but few people will admit it).
- Customers will put up with a bad web site if they can still get what they want
Booked some flights yesterday with British European (was Jersey European) to fly from Dublin to Exeter.
It’s a good website, but a good website in the same was that a 5yr old BMW 5-Series is a good car. Everything is there and it works, but it just looks a little bit dated.
On one level it works very well (after all, I booked by flights and am now looking forward to my Trip). On the other hand, it could be that bit better. Some suggestions
Use Ajax to make the user less aware that they are using a web site and more ‘just let me book my flights’
Better date / price selection. If you want to move your flight forward / back a day it doesn’t show the price until after you’ve made the selection. I was working with the team on AerLingus.com when they came up with show a week before and after the date with prices.
Get rid of the ‘do not push a button until we confirm your flights’ thing. Of course people are going to push the big red button. The use of Ajax (to do polling to see when the back-end system is finished) and Intelligent use of session numbers (it’s built using Struts) to avoid ‘double booking’.
Did I hear the works Struts and Ajax? As a complete co-incidence, here’s an article I wrote on how to implement all of this.
OK, now that I’ve got that off my chest, I can look forward to Cornwall.