Airline ticketing: Before computers, agents used stickers?

While cleaning out my basement the other day, I ran across something that never fails to make me smile.

A Wien Air Alaska 737 seating chart.

Before computers made their way to the airline world, seat dupes (accidental duplicate seat assignments) were prevented with a sheet of stickers that included every seat on the airplane.

Agents would place these stickers on a passenger’s ticket jacket. Once the entire sheet was used up, the flight was most certainly full.

At Wien, the number of seats often varied from 28 to 112 since many of their 737s were configurable with passengers or cargo, in what was called a “Combi” version of the baby Boeing. Sections of seating could be added or removed easily the night before. The sticker card below shows lines that depict the different airplane configurations. Seats were only given out up to the line needed for the particular airplane.

I’m not sure the modern day computer equivalent is as effective. A mistake that would have been nearly impossible with the sticker method happened to me recently when I was given a seat while deadheading, only to have a passenger approach me with an identical seat assignment.

But at least I was able to check-in on an iPhone, I guess.

Google acquires ITA: the search for bargain airline deals is about to get even easier

You’re an avid traveler, right? Sure, why else would you be reading this? Chances are that you’ve spent some quality time at either Kayak, Airfare Watchdog, Bing Travel or one of the many other niche ticketing sites in search of deals over the past few months. To that end, you’ve probably spent next to no time at Google searching for the same thing. But the obvious question is this: “why not?”

That’s a question that has obviously been bugging Google, which is a master of all things search in most every other category. For whatever reason, Google has allowed a number of other, typically smaller competing sites to grow their user base without any interference. But if Google’s so great at finding images via keyword, remedies to your strange medical conditions or more details on that vehicle you’ve been meaning to investigate, why can’t it do the same for travel?

Enter ITA Software, a Cambridge-based software firm that was born from an idea within the minds of a few bright computer scientists from MIT. Currently, the outfit is home to a highly advanced QPX software tool for organizing flight information, which is used by leading airlines and travel distributors worldwide including Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Bing, Continental Airlines, Hotwire, Kayak, Orbitz, Southwest Airlines, TripAdvisor, United Airlines, US Airways, Virgin Atlantic Airways and others. Moreover, it’s now offering a completely new airline passenger reservation system to improve the customer experience. And as of today, the company is an integral part of Google…
Google has ponied up $700 million in order to acquire ITA and turn the tables in the online ticket search business, but what’s most interesting here is that there’s a good chance the resulting search engine will not only do its own thing, but also bring in results from your existing favorites (Kayak, for instance). In a way, it’ll be the ultimate airline ticket search engine, pulling information from every nook and cranny available and organizing it in a way that the Average Joe or Jane can fully understand and take action on.

Once the acquisition is complete, Google aims to “make it easier for you to search for flights, compare flight options and prices and get you quickly to a site where you can buy your ticket.” It’s important to note that much like Kayak, Google won’t actually be selling you an airline ticket directly; it’ll simply be providing the access to buy one. Still, this all sounds like a huge win for consumers who are tired of crawling three different airline search engines to get a somewhat comprehensive look at their options, and we personally can’t wait for this marriage to officially bear fruit.

[Source: Google]

GADLING’S TAKE FIVE: Week of December 31

GadlingWith so many interesting stories coming out and into the New Year it made selecting this week’s five a bit difficult, yet I think I’ve gathered a well-rounded batch for you to review.

5. Think Before You Click:

Here is the sad tale of a German tourist who accidentally booked a ticket and flew into Sidney, Montana when he actually wanted to go to Sydney, Australia. The lucky fellow was able to make it to his intended destination with the help of family and friends, but talk about a costly mistake! Ouch.

4. Ask The Pilot:
Looking for the answer to all your flying questions? Why not “Ask the Pilot” or pick up the book to see if your question happens to make the selection of commonly pondered questions.

3. Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum:
When a former president is no longer with us it is a big deal to say the least and many feel the need to pay some sort of tribute. The Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum is just one place to start or perhaps you can think and thank him on your way from the ATM as he was the dude that made it legal to pull money from a machine. Not as grand as a trip to the museum, but its just a thought.

2. Paddling Baja Dispatch: Day 2:

After another great trip, Erik returns to share with us the details of paddling Baja. In this dispatch he talks about his guide Carlos, jagged coastlines, incredible rock formations, Mexican food, and rum and of course he does the favor of including some very cool photos from the affair. There is more to come, but in the meanwhile catch up on this if you already haven’t.

1. Chinese Shish Kabobs:
Death-wish or delicious? I don’t know about the food found in the pictures from Neil’s pal Pete, but I do know they make my skin crawl to the point where these Chinese shish kabob would be staying far from the taste-buds and only close enough for photo ops. Do proceed with caution.