Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Overbook situation

Several disturbing videos posted to social media Sunday show a man being violently dragged off a United Airlines plane out of Chicago after the company overbooked the flight.

Not only United Airlines allowed overbooking, it also allowed overboarding. Is this incident caused by a flawed or poorly designed computer system or a weak SOP ? I guess both.

When designing and developing a computer system, knowing the capacity of an object is crucial. These capacities also referred to other terms such as limit, maximum value or constraints.

The designer of United Airlines ticketing system should know the plane capacity and should not allowed more passengers than it can take. This can be prevented during the booking stage and check-in process.

Their SOP might suggest that the Airlines can accept more bookings but after a cut-off time, unconfirmed or unpaid booking must be automatically closed. Hence, confirming the booking will trigger the counting process of reducing the seat vacancy or increase the seat occupancy. A booking cannot be confirmed once the flight is full.

If that doesn't work, during the check-in process, there can be another counting process. The system should not allowed further check-in once the flight is full.

Michael Del Moro, the CEO of United Airlines emailed to his employees with this message "there are lessons we can learn from this experience". Well, Michael, the first lesson is to overhual your customer service SOP and methodology and then change your Airlines computer system.

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