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Air Travel to the U.S. (Software Errors)

Published by marco on

The airline Swiss needs to work on tact in its e-mails. Or they need to work on their QA process.

Instead of a boarding pass, they sent the following mail in response to a check-in attempt.

“Your boarding pass(es) could not be issued because necessary data is missing or because the immigration status does not allow boarding.

“Please note that it is your responsibility to hold all necessary immigration documents for this international trip. Click here to enter or amend your data and receive your boarding pass.

“Alternatively, use our check-in options at the airport instead.

“We wish you a pleasant flight!

“Swiss International Air Lines”

It’s a pretty scary mail if you read it through completely. Instead of being issued a boarding pass for a ticket you thought you’d paid and registered for, you’re being accused of trying to enter the U.S. illegally.

If you’ve already entered all of your information, then you can’t imagine how clicking the link would help. Instead, it sounds much more like the increasingly capricious US immigration process has thrown a monkey wrench into the works. At the very least, Swiss is distancing itself from your shady behavior.

The passive-aggressive “We wish you a pleasant flight!” after telling you that your “immigration status does not allow boarding” is the icing on the cake. Or there’s the helpful advice to “[a]lternatively, use our check-in options at the airport instead”.

So, Swiss is backpedaling like crazy from having anything to do with you and will gladly sell you to the U.S. customs authorities, but go ahead and travel to the airport physically even though your “immigration status does not allow boarding” and it’s just your time they’re wasting, right?

This was clearly a software error. The use case was not properly handled or planned for. My guess is that the system “forgot” that my friend is an American citizen and does not need an ESTA, checked for an did not find an ESTA and then sent that mail instead. It all makes sense to the simplistic logic of Swiss’s systems.

After panicking for a bit (the flight was the next day), my friend was able to re-request a boarding pass half an hour later and everything worked. This is not funny. We have to pay better attention to software systems that affect so many people. There are no repercussions for companies that cut corners like this (other than the vague “workings of the market”).

When you have a country that becomes increasingly restrictive and unpredictable, you should, as an airline, make sure not to unreasonably unsettle your customers.