Virgin Australia shifted its back-end systems over the weekend, migrating from Navitaire to Sabre in a shift that was always expected to cause disruption to customers. As expected, the process has experienced the occasional glitch and lots of elements of the site aren’t working right now. Those bugs will surely get ironed out over time, but there’s one element that seems messy for Virgin’s longer-term strategy — the new online check-in system defaults to using Flash.
As I write this, even accessing the site in a basic fashion remains something of a lottery, but Virgin’s own official Twitter account confirms the approach: “Flash is used by the new platform but we have a roadmap to replace it with a more user friendly platform to cater for all guests.” But Flash isn’t an absolute requirement: if you’re on an iPad or other Flash-free device, you will be offered a more basic HTML experience.
Given that the entire system needed to be rebuilt from scratch anyway, why not try for a better (and universal) HTML5 experience right from the start? The answer, I suspect, is the need to balance competing priorities. In an ideal world, you wouldn’t build a check-in system that offered less than optimum performance for a large percentage of mobile devices . However, shifting from one platform to another was always going to be a massive project. If Sabre offered an easy way to roll out the new check-in system using Flash, it’s understandable that this was done. But it still means there will be further upgrades (and changes) down the track, rather than concentrating all the pain in one well-publicised period.