The past week or so has seen the some looking to blame technology for outages hitting several major travel companies.
First up, LateRooms had a troublesome time - site ups and downs - for the best part of March 2. No official word from them on this.
Low-cost darling Southwest experienced a double whammy when some 300 flights were affected by a 90-minute communications outage.
At the same time, the brand new Rapid Rewards Plus frequent flyer program was experiencing some difficulties with zero balances and slow responses.
Technology at Virgin Blue was again the culprit for an outage that occurred on Feb 20. However the problem was not related to the actual reservation system but a communications switch.
Nevethless the system went down and hundreds of passengers were affected. Virgin Blue has had its fair amount of troubles with technology infrastructure over the past two years, including several widely publicized problems, with check in and the reservations system.
Travel technology is incredibly complex, there is an expectation that the "stuff" at the back should just work 24-7 without a hitch and be simple and easy to use.
After all, isn’t an airline just a glorified bus company and a hotel – how hard can it be?
The problems that those of us that have to manage technology is that the processes and the demands are not simple.
Disagree? Just start with a clean sheet of paper and try and work out how many questions and possible answers you can get for a simple trip from, say, Los Angeles to San Francisco?
Just figure out how long it would take you to find the answer is you had no search engine and no websites to get the information. We take much of this for granted and then we groan when it falls over.
The legacy systems on which travel processes rely have been around for decades. Yes they creak and they are not the most efficient.
Is that an argument to give them a little leniency? Is that further an excuse to keep the status quo and not challenge it?
I believe we are at a pivotal point in travel technology. The demands on the infrastructure are about to get even more diverse and severe.
An appworld – which some are predicting will become our future - will bring many of these legacy systems to their knees.
A recent article from a software engineer (a code jockey if you will) resulted in an outpouring of his fellow coders, after suggesting world runs on bad software... and actually he is right.
But he has a point - much of the industry's software is a result of compromise.
The balance of meeting the (often badly defined) requirements of the job at hand and writing good code in the right time at an acceptable price.
In fact, there are projects in recent years at two major travel companies which are believed to have cost millions in over-runs.
What to do? This is the age old problem of time, effort and money, and the eternal triangle of any project has to be defined better.
Travel is complicated and the number of projects I have been involved in that were ill defined have problem triggered the grey hair I now possess!
The biggest battle is that the assumption that travel – or any component thereof - is not complex. The outages we have seen are actually quite normal. Just like earthquakes occur so frequently.
So next time you hear of an outage, have a heart and think of the reasons why and what can be done.
Then reflect. If you have any input into technology – as most Tnooz readers do – then do your part and make a better job of defining the requirements, and a better job of executing the code.