The unhappy marriage between travel and tech

What’s so difficult about having tech work for travellers instead of against them? I realize I may be over-reacting, but there are so many times tech lets me down when I’m on the road – does not matter how hard I try to prepare, and how much mileage I accumulate, I always find reasons for more inconvenience.

In love with paper

Airlines have decided they can save a bit of money by having us print our own boarding passes – some jerks (like RyanAir, which will never see my business ever again) even go as far as CHARGING a substantial fee for re-printing it for you at the airport.

Some airlines (EasyJet) will not accept anything but a printed boarding pass, most are a little more sensible: what’s so hard to understand in the fact that although most of us carry one or more devices capable of computing, printers are available only where I have a home or an office?

And even assuming I do print one, I constantly marvel at how poorly designed they are. What are the key info on a boarding pass? Flight number, departure gate, departure time, seat number and barcode – everything else I don’t need/care, yet probably some asshole in marketing saw an opportunity for further harassing me with unwanted offers for car hires or hotels. Some are so confusing you end up printing twice the pass for the outgoing journey and none for return, some others make a point of printing the key information in 6pt typeface.

Mobile? Too early!

But enough with paper, what about some other means that’s more convenient for me? The obvious candidate is a mobile device, it’s 2012, iOS is on the 6th generation, Android on its 4th, soon there will be more smartphones than computers, is it really so difficult to develop a mobile app that does not utterly suck?

Alitalia has a decent app running on a flawed frequent flyer database that will NOT recognize my membership number 00095481 if I omit the leading zeroes !

Of course the true ideal solution would be a universal mobile check-in app, but I do not even dare to dream it.

Apple, why do you hate me?

I know I sound like a betrayed lover, but there is no situation other than traveling to highlight Apple’s penchant for fixing what does not need fixing.

Say you are fortunate enough to travel on one of these airlines that do not 100% require a paper pass. When I had an assistant, magic Barbara would check me in, and file the PDF document in a Dropbox folder.

I would open the folder on my iPad and show the pass at security; now I do all of this myself, but the process is still efficient (how many times did you check in on the cab to the airport?); except Apple does not want me to know where my files are on my device and removed access to the file system. So if, for whatever reason, at the gate you cannot connect to the cellular network, no boarding pass. Saving the file locally is possible, but it involves such a convoluted and unintuitive manoeuver that most people give up. BTW, this and the inability to replace the battery are the two main reasons why I will never use an iPhone.

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