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Web 0.1 – British Airways

Travelling to Helsinki with British Airways, 24 hours before the flight I received an email telling me that “Online Checkin is now available” and providing a link to check-in online.

So, from my blackberry, I tried the link. It’s broken – it runs some buggy javascript that ends up redirecting to the britishairways homepage (probably because someone is using a 10-year-out-of-date hacky “what is your web browser” check instead of writing the page properly), and then does something I haven’t seen in years – an infinite redirect to the same page. I left the browser for about 5 minutes, and it was constantly redirecting for all that time, as fast as it could load the tiny HTML fragment, around once every 5 seconds.

Sigh. I tried again, this time from Firefox. Now things worked fine, and it picked up my flight automatically from the code embedded in the URL they’d emailed me. Great.

Only, after clicking through a series of pages – I want online checkin; yes, I want it now; yes I’m ready to checkin; yes, I’m the only passenger / have all other passengers with me – it goes to an error page saying:

This flight does not support online checkin. Please checkin when you get to the airport.

So … what was the purpose in sending me that email in the first place?

If they hadn’t bothered, then I’d never have found out that their website is broken, and I wouldn’t have wasted my time trying to do an online checkin process that they don’t allow for flights to Helsinki. Even better, I would never have found out that the email address they sent me the email from has an auto-responder saying “we never read any emails sent to this address, please use http://www.britishairways.com for any support queries”.

Of course, the original email doesn’t say this, and the address isn’t something obvious like “noreply@”, so I’d written them a proper complaint and given them the details of their broken site. All of which they proceeded to automatically delete.

Verdict: BA’s hamfisted attempt at using the internet has shown not only their incompetence, but also their contempt for customer service. It’s also created a desire in me for online checkin, shown me how easy it COULD be, if I were flying with an airline that supported it. All in all, they’ve gone out of their way to use the internet to persuade me to stop flying with them in the future – and I haven’t even got to the airport yet! Definitely a case of Web 0.1…

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