Thursday, January 15, 2009

Sometimes I hate Travelocity

Yesterday I was booking a flight from Little Rock to the Raleigh-Durham airport. I used Travelocity.com as I frequently do, found a great rate for $174 on Continental, and proceeded to provide all my detailed travel information (address, phone number, frequent flier number, etc.) and my payment info (credit card number, expiration date, etc.). I then went through four screens, meticulously picking out an available seat on each flight near the emergency exit.

After entering all this information and agreeing to their draconian cancellation terms, Travelocity finally asked me to click one final button which would charge the ticket to my credit card. After clicking it and waiting a few seconds, I got this message:
Sorry, but that ticket is no longer available.

I tried to remain calm as I started my search over and selected different Continental flights listed at the same price. I again went through the multiple screens as before, re-entered all my personal information, re-selected the seats I wanted (there were a ton of open seats), and clicked on the final purchase button. Again:
Sorry, but that ticket is no longer available.

At this point I nearly punched my computer. I yelled out something I'm sure most of the faculty heard from their offices. I'm usually not an angry kind of guy, but I was hot.

When I started my search over again, the same flights that had been denied me were still listed as valid selections!

In my anger, I swore I would not give Travelocity my business. I headed over to Expedia where I found the same flights for about the same price. When I selected them for purchase, I again was given an error message that the flights were not available. At least this time I was told before having spent 15 minutes entering all my info and selecting my seats. However, re-doing my search still brought up the same flights.

Hey guys: If you are going to frustrate your users by giving them the option of selecting flights that may or may not actually be available, at least have the decency of removing the unavailable flights from the user's search results once you know they are definitely unavailable!

Secondly, don't ask the user to duplicate their work. There was no reason for Travelocity to make me re-enter all the same personal information a second time, especially when I clicked on the checkbox that told them I wanted them to remember my info!

I realize there was probably some software glitch with Continental's pricing info since it affected both sites, but you should account for these types of errors. Don't waste your users' time. Suggestion to Travelocity and Expedia programmers: read GUI Bloopers by Jeff Johnson and take some good notes.

Eventually I purchased a more expensive ticket on Southwest Airlines from the SWA website. I'm still angry.