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How LastMinute.Com Taught Me That The Real Time Web Needs The Real Time Enterprise June 25, 2012

Posted by bernardlunn in Enterprise Web 2.0.
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I had never used LastMinute.com before, but I knew of the concept and I had a perfect use case, so it was time to give it a try. I had to get a flight on short notice and wanted to see if there were any last minute bargains. I started on my iPhone, found a click to call, spoke to a rep who quickly got me a flight that looked like 50% off the list price I was seeing elsewhere. Go for it, I told him, gave my card details etc and after some fluffing around was told:

– the price just went up (about 10%). OK, it was still a bargain, so though I was annoyed I eventually said yes.

– then I was told to pay an additional 2% because I was using Amex, even though that was the card they had taken and confirmed the price was “everything included”. That was the straw that broke the camel’s back and I stopped the transaction.

I went back to my laptop, found WiFi and went to book it online, found the original price, booked it and got email confirmation. I patted myself on the back and went out for the evening, thinking all was OK with my flight.

Wrong!

At checkin, they had no record of my reservation. Went to their ticket counter, to a helpful lady who got LastMinute on the phone. No reservation had been made. My card had been debited and I had confirmation, I had an Order Number from LastMinute. I also had  an Airline Reference Locator. Silly me, I do not know the intricacies of airline reservation systems. What I needed was a Ticket Number. Note to self, store this knowledge in lifehack file.

Here is what seems to have happened:

– Airline sends LastMinute a price.

– Last Minute posts that price to me.

– During the booking process – it is a multi-leg transaction – the price gets changed by the airline

– So the ticket is never issued.

The consumer i.e. me, holds LastMinute responsible. I assume the interface to the Airline was all messed up and probably the Airline (not a major) had old-fashioned systems. But that is LastMinute’s job to manage. I think all the travel sites suffer from some version of this problem. I have seen that at times when flights are cancelled due to weather and everybody scrambles to get on a new flight.

The real time web sounds fun but we cannot live on fun real time tweets. At some stage we have to connect to the real world of enterprise systems and transactional systems that involve money. That interface seems to be horribly broken. Methinks any tech platform that can fix that is going to do very well.