Friday, November 04, 2011

Jetstar’s crazy cyber-bureaucracy

A couple of months ago I booked a flight for my wife on Jetstar from Darwin to Manila. The flight was scheduled to leave at 7.00 pm and arrive at 9.40 pm.

About a month after booking the flight I received an email from Jetstar stating: “Jetstar is sorry to inform you that since you made your booking, your flight schedule has been changed. We understand it can be frustrating when plans change, and we apologise for any inconvenience caused. While we try to avoid any changes to our timetable, in this instance it was unavoidable. The change to the schedule has been made so we can maximise our aircraft utilisation and continue to offer you everyday low fares. Please click the button above to be directed to our website. Once there follow the prompts to accept the change. If your new flight time is not acceptable please contact our Reservations team for other available alternatives.”

When I checked the flight schedule I discovered that the only thing that had changed was the arrival time – which had been amended from 9.40 pm to 9.45 pm.

Who cares? Flights rarely arrive right on time, and five minutes is neither here nor there after a four hour international flight – especially when weather and air traffic congestion regularly causes much longer delays, and you can spend anything up to an hour queuing for immigration and waiting for baggage.

But the email asked that the change be “accepted” by clicking a button, so I thought I’d better do that to make sure the reservation was retained in the system.

The button took me to the Jetstar website where a screen asked me to click a box accepting the change and print the page and attach it to the e-ticket.

I did not print the page and attach it to the e-ticket (it did not state what the consequences of that would be – “Sorry Madam, you will not be permitted to board the flight as you did not waste a sheet of paper and costly ink to print an extra page to attach to your e-ticket to show that your flight will be arriving five minutes late”) but I did click the box and then the ‘Accept’ button.

That produced a pop-up panel which said: “Are you sure you want to acknowledge the changes made to your reservation?”

I looked for a button which said “No, I don’t care whether I acknowledge this or not, I am only doing this because you are the ones who started this stupid cyber-bureaucracy”.

But there was no such button. My only choices were ‘OK’ or ‘Cancel’.

I pressed the “OK” button. But that just returned me to the same screen as before. I tried it again a couple of times, and it kept returning me to the same screen. “Maybe I am supposed to press the ‘Cancel’ button,” I thought. But I was hesitant to do that fearing the next screen I would see would be: “Congratulations, you have successfully cancelled your reservation”.

So I gave up.

About a month later I received the same email again. I guess that was because I had not yet accepted the late arrival change.

I tried all the above steps again with the same result, alternating between the screen that said “Accept” and the pop-up box that said “OK”.

So I gave up again.

My wife is due to travel in about a week. I fear that when she gets to the check-in counter she will be told: “Our computer records show that your brainless husband has spent one hour and twenty minutes of his valuable time trying to accept our advice that your flight arrival time has been changed from 9.40 pm to 9.45 pm. As he was not able to work out how to accept this change, you will be required to leave the aircraft at 9.40 pm”.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

NBC News - Nothing Beyond California?

Today BBC World disappeared from our channel line-up at home. I knew it was going to disappear because our cable service provider, SkyCable, had been running a crawler across the screen for the past week saying that if we wanted to continue to watch BBC World we would have to get a ‘digibox’ – whatever that is.

We only have two international news channels on our service – BBC World and CNN International – and apart from an occasional movie, they are the only channels I ever watch (most of my other TV viewing is done online these days, and movies downloaded to my iPad).

When I turned on the TV this evening the screen was a ghostly grey as I had left it tuned to the BBC channel number (I normally watch BBC for about 70% of the time and CNN for the other 30%). I switched over to CNN, but there was just another boring Piers Morgan celebrity interview on, so I went surfing through the other channels to see if I could find any English news anywhere. To my surprise I discovered a channel called Talk TV that seemed to be a compilation of NBC programmes from the US. At that moment the Today Show was just starting which included a national news bulletin from their New York studios.

I watched the full bulletin which led with the story on the plot to assassinate the Saudi Arabian ambassador in Washington DC, had lots of stories about the Republican candidates vying for the nomination to run against Obama next year, and finished with a story about a woman who got lost in a cornfield maze (a maize maze?) and couldn’t find her way out. She had apparently called 911 from her mobile phone and the police went to ‘rescue’ her from the maze (which took them about one minute according to the reporter).

I realised then that the bulletin had not contained a single story about anything that had happened overseas, so I guess that the NBC news editor had decided that a woman lost in a maze would be of more interest to US viewers than the final battle for Sirte, the passing of the carbon tax in Australia, the release of political prisoners in Myanmar, the devastating floods in Thailand or the jailing of the former Ukrainian prime minister.

Is it little wonder than the average American has no clue about what is going on in the rest of the world?

I’d better call SkyCable in the morning and find out how much they are going to hit my pocket for one of their ‘digiboxes’. As much as I like some of the programming on CNN (Fareed Zakaria’s GPS is one of their best offerings), I need an alternative when Piers Morgan is on his soapbox.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

The good luck/bad luck bird

I posted this photograph to my Facebook wall yesterday to see if any of my Malaysian friends could identify the bird. I took the photograph last December in the restaurant at the bird park in Kuala Lumpur (where it had landed next to my table and was watching me eat) so I had assumed that it was a bird from the Borneo rainforest, given its striking colours.

However, I was wrong. Turns out it is an African ground hornbill (thanks for identifying it, Angie). When I looked it up on the Internet, I discovered quite a few interesting facts about this bird. Apparently female birds lay two eggs, but they only raise one chick, leaving the other to die within a few days.

According to some information posted by the Honolulu Zoo (which has two of the birds) the African ground hornbill is classified as ‘vulnerable’ in South Africa now (which is the next classification down from ‘endangered’) because they can now only be found in reserves (with about 700 birds in the Kruger National Park). The zoo’s website states:

“In South Africa there has been a large decline in their numbers for a number of reasons. They are popular to use as ‘muti’ or tribal medicine among some of the indigenous people of South Africa. The brain of a ground hornbill, if kept in a village, is reputed to bring the village luck. Irate homeowners kill them because they will attack windows, breaking them, if they encounter their reflections. They are also vulnerable to picking up poison baits that are set out for predators. Currently there is a conservation project underway in South Africa, in which the second chick from a nest is taken before it dies and raised and released to help increase their numbers.”

That’s good news that efforts are being made to help prevent these birds from becoming an endangered species.

Some other facts on the website that I found interesting related to the local folklore surrounding the African ground hornbill. The Masai believe that the bird should never be killed because it will bring bad luck, but if one lands on the roof of a house, the occupants must move immediately or they believe death will ensue.

Seems this bird has a split personality in African folklore. In some circumstances it brings good luck, on other occasions it brings bad luck.

I am pleased to report that death did not ensue after it landed next to my table at the Kuala Lumpur bird park!