Memo To Airlines: We Can Access Your Sites During A Crisis

Like thousands of other Australians, my flight got delayed and eventually cancelled yesterday after a security breach at Sydney Airport caused massive holdups. And I've only got one very minor complaint about the whole thing: I could get better information from the Jetstar site than I could from anyone on the ground at the Gold Coast Airport.

On the whole, the delay scenario was handled very well by Jetstar once it became clear that flights to Sydney would all have to be cancelled because incoming aircraft wouldn't be able to meet the curfew for flights landing on their return. We got rebooked onto flights for Wednesday (no mean feat in itself with Easter travellers abounding) and placed in hotels for the night if we didn't live locally. Recognising that the Gold Coast Airport was not responsible for odd activities in Sydney, passengers actually stayed pretty calm as well, and there was plenty of evidence of power outlet sharing and other good traveller manners.

What was odd and slightly annoying was that the Jetstar flight status page consistently had more accurate and up-to-date information than the announcements made in the terminal. It was routinely showing a projected departure time 30 to 60 minutes later than what we were being told on-screen. All over the terminal, people were using mobile phones, notebooks and tablets to check flight status, and there was a slightly disgruntled air over the fact that we were clearly not being given current information. That seems to me like an avoidable source of annoyance.

I've had cause to complain before about being kept in the dark during airline delays, and I understand that it can take a while for a final decision to be made on flight cancellations and strategies. But at the point where information on a public site has been updated, it seems pretty clear that an announcement could also be made at the affected airport. Lots of us have Internet-enabled devices, and we are going to be checking, so I can't see any value in "secrecy", while I can see a big potential downside.


    Angus, I agree with your comments wholeheartedly. I think the Australian airlines are getting better at managing and communicating delays. But more can be done.

    The way to approach this problem is for the decision makers to take off their airline management hat and wear their passenger hat. Look at things from a passenger's perspective. How would you feel as a passenger? What information would you want as a passenger?

    Decision makers and managers tend to get lost inside their own culture and process and forget what it's like for real people.

    I was on the Sydney side of this last night and can confirm the web was miles better; the Syd Airport Domestic Departures site was consistently ahead of the announcers and in a few instances ahead of the displays in the terminals as well.

    It was also easier to find out what was going on by googling Sydney Airport Domestic security than asking any of the airport employees (found a SMH article which explained it all).

    +1 to internet enabled devices :)

    On my last trip to Sydney to pick up relatives I found the arrivals board pretty rubbish with flights appearing multiple times because of code sharing and the one we wanted missing altogether - ended up getting the gate details from Sydney Airport website.

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