Anyone who is experienced in traveling by air is well aware of the importance of following the status of their airline flight to keeping their schedule and travel plans on track. At best, traveling by air today has become an adventure fraught with delays, cancellations, upgrades, standbys, and just general status changes. Airlines are now utilizing a vast array of new-era communication devices to keep us all informed as to the status of our flights. It is almost as if they think we will be more understanding and patient with all the uncertainty if we have more information we could ever possibly need.
Most major carriers offer tracking websites, mobile apps and 800 numbers for travelers to stay in touch as to the basic schedules and status of flights, some offer online check-in, advanced boarding passes and automatic passenger notifications of changes and delays.
But United Airlines has taken the practice to new heights with their online flight tracking system. Not only can you get schedule information and ticket services, but the UA Flight Status System offers information so comprehensive that it borders on “more than we need to know.”
It is not necessary to have a ticket or be a booked passenger to gain access to all kinds of interesting stuff. Just a flight number, date of departure and an airport and an abundance of details will be laid out before you including; the usual flight time schedule, airport concourse, gate number, model of plane, in-flight amenities, seat map, seat assignments and the, not so usual, upgrade and standby lists, with the first initials and last names of the passengers. And as the flight becomes airborne, you can follow the airplanes in-flight progress in real time via satellite, all the way to its destination. So much for jetting around the country unnoticed.
This pervasive use of the new communication technologies may have a measurable marketing advantage for United over its competitors, but many are beginning to wonder what is an appropriate threshold for offering such detailed real-time information, unprotected and seemingly without user restriction.
How much is too much?