TECH TALK: An American Journey: Travel Vignettes

Here is a collection of thoughts about the travel experience:

Photos@Airport: Considering that webcams and storage is so cheap (and the US Immigration is already doing it), I wish airlines would also take photos of people checking in and their baggage. During my previous trip, despite of all the assertations that people and their baggage always travel together on flights, my bags were separated for me. Trying to then describe the bags is not a trivial exercise. If they had the images, it would be so much easier to trace and identify bags in case they got misplaced.

GPS in Cars: This has to become more cost-effective. It really should not be costing more than a couple dollars a day (we got a daily rate of $15 from the rental car company). A GPS system is a great time-saver. I used it once four years ago, and Id have loved to do it again. But then, I guess, one either gets a cheap car or a cheap GPS system, not both!

OHIO for Flight Information: It was quite amazing to see discrepancies in flight departure information on at least a couple occasions. I would have thought that the airlines would have streamlined the information so that they would be all using a common database, and thinking OHIO (only handle information once). But presumably, there is information entered at multiple places, and that can lead to different displays showing information that can be conflicting.

On-Time Arrival Mania: I realised one thing on this trip: if your flight is delayed and the airline believes it is not going to be able to make it in the window considered for the on-time arrival calculations, you can be in big trouble. A flight on Alaska Airlines from San Francisco to Seattle was delayed, and then further delayed. 30 minutes, an hour, 90 minutes went by. Meanwhile, another flight between the same two cities, left on time! For the life of me, I could not understand why they wouldnt do first in, first out with the passengers. But then, they would have had two late flights. This way, they at least got one flight in on time! Who cares about the passengers. (I finally cancelled my flight it left four hours late.)

Use Webcams: As I walked out of La Guardia airport to take a cab to my hotel, I saw two things: a long queue of people waiting for taxis, and a sign which said, More Taxis 350 feet ahead. While it is good to know that I can get more taxis ahead, I have no idea of the waiting period. How about putting a webcam and having a monitor which shows the queue there, so people can then make their own decision? This made me think that there are so many places which could benefit from the use of new technology which has been commoditised, but has still not made its way into institutions built many years ago.

Baggage Tracking: This has been a long-standing wish of mine. Waiting at Baggage Claim can be quite a nerve-wracking experience. For one, I have no idea if the bags made it on the flight it would be nice to get an SMS once the bags are loaded (presumably, they are tracked through the system). Later, RFIDs as part of baggage tags could also alert me when my bags are loaded on the conveyer belt. [On the matter of bags, Mumbai airport has a different problem: the priority bags of business class passengers almost invariably come late, even as the passengers themselves are cleared first through Immigration. The result: massive crowding near and on the conveyor belts, and then inevitably the belt stops working because of baggage overload since the bags are there, and the passengers are still waiting in the queue.]

Tomorrow: Travel Vignettes (continued)

TECH TALK American Journey+T

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.