Jeff Utecht’s post today about the growth of networks and technology in pretty much every facet of our commerce and leisure was interesting. Perhaps those of us who grow with the changes everyday don’t see them and it takes someone who is away for a bit to see just how things have changed – kind of like grandparents sho don’t see their grandkids for a while. I have to wonder though, with Jeff being based in Shanghai for the past bit, just why this would be such a drastic change. Maybe I am mistaken, but I guess I would have expected this to be not a new experience for him.
There is perhaps no better testament to the changing nature of information than the transportation industry. You can shop, evaluate and book pretty much all your travels needs from anywhere, anytime.
As I sit here halfway through a six-hour layover at Chicago’s O’Hare International, it is amazing how critical the digitization and networking of information is to the operations of a large, modern airport. Hustle and bustle, screens changing, connections being missed and rebooked with decisions being made on the fly based on the latest information. My flight from Toronto was held 30 minutes after a later flight was cancelled and the airline wanted to try and catch a few more customers who had connections here in Chicago. This was played against the needs of existing customers who also had connections. They seemed to know just how long was the optimum time to hold the plane to catch the greatest number of following passengers without causing disruption to the current bookings and on-going flights.
I can’t even begin to imagine the networks and information United Airlines staff used to make the decision to push-back, but I am sure everything, inclusing the weather forecast, was included. The ability of individuals in the decision-making chain to access, assess and communicate their knowledge into the decision must have been som ething unheard of even ten years ago.
But, as I sit here working on Tuesday’s workshop at Laptop Institute in Memphis, I was witness to something I had never seen before at an airport. This plane, All-Nippon Airway’s Flight 011 from O’Hare to Tokyo-Narita, pushed back from the gate and waited while the ground crew did their usual checks and cut the cords. But then it waited, while two men, one a Japanese man in a suit (presumably an ANA gate agent) and a ground crew member, stood near the front of the plane.
As if on cue, the two men bowed towards the front of the plane just as the giant started to move. Then, as the plane continued to move past them towards the airfield, they stood and waved, almost excitedly, together to each and every window. Unfortunately, I was busy digging for my camera.
In this day and age when too many of us are busy trying to get ahead, this old-fashioned gesture towards the people in the plane was kind of refreshing. In all our rush to manage information better, maybe a simple wave can communicate best.