Sunday, February 11, 2007

3GSM World Congress: Iberia Pax Beware

Currently in Barcelona for the 3GSM World Congress, the mobile phone industry's annual shindig. And, blogging from the TYR Deployable Intelligence Centre Kit, aka my laptop, a length of cat 5 and a slightly iffy Internet connection, here I am.

First, though, a warning to travellers. If you are heading to Barcelona on BA, Iberia ex-Heathrow, or Lufthansa, DO NOT GO TO BAGGAGE RECLAIM, because your baggage will not be there. In fact, although these flights arrive at Terminal A, the baggage will be taken to Terminal B for some reason, so turn RIGHT and walk to Terminal B. Worse, if you do go to reclaim in Terminal A, you will not be able to return to the airside concourse, so you will have to leave Terminal A, walk along the road to B, walk along the length of Terminal B, pass through the departures security checkpoint, and seek your luggage.

Anyway, if you're a real techie, you won't have any checked baggage anyway, will you? My colleague, who did have checked baggage, succeeded in passing the security checkpoint by producing his ticket stub, but this is not recommended, especially for non-Spanish speakers. This ends the public service announcement (without guitars).

I've had a couple of arse-awful transport stupidity experiences lately. In London, Iberia's self-service check-in wasn't working, due to a subtle failure. It had run out of blank boarding cards, but was functioning in all other respects, so at the end of the process you were simply told it could not be completed. The ticket desk sent me to the fast bag drop desk, who printed off my boarding card with the seat I'd selected on the machine, thus proving that it was actually working. But, as no-one thought to mention this, still less put more blanks in the machine, everyone else was clarted up in the queues.

Then, a couple of days before that, it snowed! Knowing South West Trains, I thought I'd check on the Net before setting out. Imagine my surprise to find no meaningful information on the SWT homepage, their real-time website (at the annoyingly unrelated url fallen over in a puddle, and the Network Rail Live Departure Boards site overloaded enough to fail to load actual data, but not enough to fail to load the inevitable banner ads. Don't want to lose any of those precious eyeballs, now, do we.

The howling clue vacuum was just as obvious a few weeks earlier when a storm brought down 1,000 trees onto the rails. If you're seeking either SWT or the LDBs, it's a fair assumption that you are either travelling or about to travel, so you'd think somebody might have considered that its users might not be seated comfortably before a 21" screen designer-spesh Mac G5 with a dedicated T1 line. But SWT's site is literally unreadable on a mobile gadget and there is no low graphics/mobile version (which would also help a lot in coping with peak loads). Network Rail's site is apparently "PDA friendly", which I take to mean "validated", but there is no direct link from the front page to any of the cutdown sites. They do have a WAP version, but then, if you're down you're down.

Compare Transport for London, whose is quite humane in itself, but also has a genuinely austere mobile self. On the night, TFL was legible, SWT an eye-buggering slow-loading horrorshow.

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