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Late last week I had a last minute flight change and switched to JetBlue for my round-trip to Washington D.C. By last minute, I mean last minute. Waiting for a flight, on an airline that will remain United nameless, our plane had multiple mechanical failures to fix, including a fuel leak. We would have departed after my meeting was over.
So, I called my travel agent and while I was walking between terminals, I had them book me on the only flight that would get me there in time -- on JetBlue. I was still on the mobile phone with the travel agent when I arrived in front of the JetBlue check-in kiosks 30 minutes before the flight was due to depart. I waited to get my confirmation code, and immediately punched it into the kiosk to get my boarding pass... and it worked.
I was impressed, because their central reservation system was sync'd with the airport systems in real-time.
Because I was doing a day trip, I could even check-in for my return flight immediately. At the kiosk I also changed my seat on the return to get a better one - it still amazes me that airlines automatically assign you last-row-middle when there are lots of other seats open.
And, it's on my return where the fun began...
On my return, with plenty of time to spare, I leisurely walked on the plane a bit late. And, I found someone in my seat. We looked at each other and immediately assumed the other couldn't read. I thought to myself, "Here I go - I have to explain to this bozo that 'B' is on the other side of the plane." Of course, he probably thought the same.
We compared boarding passes and realized we were assigned the exact same seat. This is the first time in years that this had happened to me - back in the paper ticket days it happened a lot, but not until airlines switched to e-tickets has it happened to me.
So, while JetBlue had done a great job syncing the data to my departure airport's systems, it seemed like they had a wee bug syncing the other way - syncing local changes (seat assignments) back into the central reservation system didn't work.
SOA What? Now, I don't know if JetBlue's systems are SOA based or not, but there's clearly a lesson in here for people building SOA infrastructure: If your services are geographically distributed (in this case Boston, DC, and central reservations), or you have different instances of the service to handle different channels (in this case travel agent vs. airport kiosk) data consistency is a key concern. Don't assume that you've got hours or even minutes to "make things consistent." In today's mobile world all channels and geographies need to be in-sync in real-time to meet customer expectations.
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