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”.