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Chapter 1. Riddles for the Information Age > Commercial Software Suffers, Too

Commercial Software Suffers, Too

Not only are computers taking over the cockpits of jet airliners, but they are also taking over the passenger cabin, behaving in that same obstinate, perverse way that is so easy to recognize and so hard to use. Modern jet planes have in-flight entertainment (IFE) systems that deliver movies and music to passengers. IFE systems are merely computers connected with LANs, just like the computers in your office. Advanced IFE systems are generally installed only on larger airplanes flying transoceanic routes.

One airline's IFE system was so frustrating for the flight attendants to use that many of them were bidding to fly shorter, local routes to avoid having to learn and use the difficult systems. This is remarkable, considering that the time-honored airline route-bidding process is based on seniority, and that those same long-distance routes have always been considered the most desirable plums because of their lengthy layovers in exotic locales such as Singapore or Paris. For flight attendants to bid for unglamorous, unromantic yo-yo flights from Denver to Dallas or from Los Angeles to San Francisco just to avoid the IFE system indicated a serious morale problem. Any airline that inflicted bad tools on its most prized employees—the ones who spent the most time with the customer—was making a foolish decision and profligately discarding money, customer loyalty, and staff loyalty.


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