The recent computer system breakdown at Southwest Airlines—which effectively grounded the airline and delayed thousands of passengers—is just the latest incident where a computer crash disrupts an entire system.
Now, every major airline is investing in cybersecurity programs.
Less than three years ago, less than 47 percent of airlines were considering beefing up their cybersecurity.
This focus on cybersecurity will also result in increased connectivity between the airlines and their passengers.
This includes more mobile apps and multimedia devices.
For me, I’m still a little old school.
I always print out my boarding pass and flight information before I leave home.
Having a paper backup will almost always get me on a plane and out of the airport more easily if—or when—an airline’s computer crashes.
It’s simple—I’m holding in my hand an actual bonafide record of my reservation.
So, while you’re welcoming advanced technology, don’t forget that piece of paper.
Chaos at one of the busiest US airports after a power outage
I asked our travel expert at Discovery Sense Travels what passengers can and should do in the event of a problem like this. He began with pro-active steps: “Download the airline’s app onto your smartphone or tablet, and always log in before your first flight of the day. Always carry an offline copy of your flight itinerary… Don’t rely solely on the airline’s app, which could be affected by the IT outage.”
If you’re a TripIt or TripIt Pro user, the good news is that the app will do this for you, retaining copies of all of your itineraries whether your device is connected to the internet or not.
It’s also a good idea to retain email and image-based copies of your itineraries which you can capture with your smartphone screenshot feature.
Next, he says: “Immediately you get in line at the airlines nearest service center; if you can’t find a service center, ask any airline employee. If there’s a flight departing soon to your next or final destination, go to that gate, show the agent your boarding pass(es) and itinerary, politely explain the situation and ask whether they can accommodate you — even as a standby passenger. Only go outside security to the ticket/check-in counter if you have no other choice; you may not be able to return without a new boarding pass.”
Pull out your smartphone
He also says: “While standing in line, pull out your smartphone and check the airline’s website and/or app for your updated reservation and/or change options. If you can’t get a satisfactory resolution online, call your travel agency or your corporate travel department
I asked him how helpful it is to be able to re-book it yourself from a mobile device in a case like this. He says: “When the situation is not IT-related (weather, air traffic control, etc.), it’s enormously helpful because you can probably avoid standing in line and you may have more re-accommodation options because you get to choose faster. In that case, pull out something to read, because you’ll be standing in line with everyone else until the problem is resolved.”
Of course, if another airline’s computers are working fine, a mobile app like Concur that can access many airlines’ flights – and keep you aware of changes – can be an effective way to bypass the block.
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