Taking travel services into your own hands: Becoming an on-the-go iPhone travel agent

Using the iPhone to help people navigate travel delays

Travel woes during winter are not new - canceled flights, delays, missed connections, you name it, it's likely to happen. Being stranded at a hub airport is probably the last thing you wanted to happen. Boy, that airport floor is a might comfortable bed, right? What's worse, if you're delayed you tend to have to wait in monstrously long customer 'service' lines to find out what your fate is. What's even worse is finding out that you missed an alternative connection while you were waiting in line!

The situation has gotten worse as the airlines cut their support staff personnel. With the iPhone however, we passengers can take matters into our own hands and thumbs to navigate our ways through travel nightmares.

I found this out personally last week. I was headed home to Iowa when an aborted take-off delayed my United flight from SFO to Denver by two hours, I found myself missing my connection to Iowa by 10 minutes. Rather than being rendered ignorant and powerless as to what my fate was, as we were taxiing in Denver I looked up later flights in the day using Safari on the iPhone and found out that I'd have an oh-so-glamorous 6-hour wait in Denver, but that there was, thank goodness, another flight to the Iowan metropolis that was my destination scuttling the airport floor overnighter.

Of course, I could have waited on hold for 45 minutes to find out the same information from some unintelligible call center in India, but instead, I used my iPhone to lookup, book and confirm a place on the next flight to Iowa.

After getting off the plane, 100 of my fellow passengers and I joined the monstrous 200-person customer 'service' line. I was just there to get a boarding pass (which I later realized that I could have printed at a kiosk by myself) but most everyone else was a step back, waiting to find out what their connection options were.

The Wait in Denver

This is how the iPhone with its full-web access was more than handy, and how I made some new friends in line. Many people were either on hold with United or looking disillusioned at waiting behind hundreds of other people for God knows how long. Worse, the airport monitors didn't list flights more than 1 or 2 hours away. But, with the iPhone, I started looking up flights for people in line, eventually telling them to go to gate 42 right away because there was a delayed flight from earlier that they could take, or that there were two other connecting flights leaving in a few hours that hadn't appeared on the monitors yet. People started coming up and asking what their options were and I was happy to say that most of them didn't have to sleep on the airport floor. Being able to use the iPhone to give me the ability to at least tell people what their options were in an otherwise bleak customer 'service' line is a service I was proud to provide, but one the airlines should really have been doing all along.

About the author

    Kevin Ho is an attorney living in San Francisco. He's from Iowa originally where he got his first Atari computer when he was little and remembers using the Apple IIGS. He is PC-user but secretly a Mac person in the closet as evidenced by many an iPod cluttering his desk drawers. He'll be writing about his experience with the iPhone. Disclosure.

     

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