T minus 4 minutes because it was “stuck in a workflow”

This post is part rant, part comment on possible improvements

Yesterday I flew from Amsterdam to Chicago. Knowing that it was a flight into the country of security paranoia and assuming that there would be security checks to the nth degree, I made sure that I arrive two and a half hours early at the airport.

I will also admit that another reason that I arrived at the airport so early, was that the night before I had tried to check-in online, but was unable to find a reservation number on the print-out I had. Assuming that I had, possibly, lost the e-mail, I decided that I would “sort it out” at the check-in desk.

So there I was, with my passport in hand, and a smile on my face, giving my details to the man behind the counter. He could find me in the system OK, but no ticket number had actually been issued. Which meant that it was not possible for me to get on the plane.

I rang the lady at my work, (Francine – a lovely lady), who looked after this thing. It was Sunday morning and also Sinterklaas (a Dutch festival) so I really appreciated that she had her phone switched on. It transpired that the ticket was booked through American Express Travel. She gave me a phone number that I could ring. Which I did. A recorded message came on stating that this was the American Express Travel Emergency phone line. That was good. What was not good was the fact that I was on hold for 45 minutes before I hung up! (And every 40 seconds hearing “your call is important to us”). Ok – to be fair, the airport at Amsterdam had been closed because of snow for half of Saturday, so there was a backlog of “emergencies”.

Anyway… Francine had also rang, and, fortunately, hadn’t hung up yet. And, at 4 minutes to the closing of the check-in gate, she rang me with the ticket number. 4 minutes! so much for turning up early.

In any case I made the flight.

Francine followed up with American Express Travel. It seems that the ticket had never been issued properly because it was stuck in a workflow.

Now, having an automated workflow in place is a great, great thing. It saves time and it ensures a consistent process. However…a workflow also needs to be monitored. If an item gets “stuck” in a workflow then someone needs to be able to respond to this.  Even something simple as a daily report of “stuck” items is handy. The workflow can be “unblocked”, or the workflow can be restarted. It’s a simple thing.

American Express Travel, please take note.

And, Francine, thanks for your help.