@SOU_Airport No ads, thanks, just info… A Flight Tracking Autoresponder Would Be Handy Though…

A few minutes or so, @sou_airport tweeted:

Welcome to new followers of Southampton Airport. Since the snow, followers have doubled and we will keep you up to date with news and offers

With recent news stories deploring the state of information provision, the occasional tweets from @sou_airport regarding the status of the airport have been handy…

– “Southampton Airport is to open from 06:30am today- some knock-on delays are expected due to the weather. Pls check with airlines for info.”

– “Southampton Airport currently has capacity on Flybe flights to Amsterdam, Paris, Dusseldorf and Brussels up to Christmas.”

If they’re just going to start tweeting ads and offers, though, I’m not interested, and will likely unfollow… Just because a company suddenly opens up a comms channel that folk sign up doesn’t mean it needs to be a marketing channel – the payoff is in having fewer disgruntled passengers, and folk turning up to fly to find cancelled flights and adding to the airport’s problems…

If they want to consign me to following a backwater channel, such as @sou_airport_status, that’s fine… Just don’t add noise to the signal if all i want is signal…

Something that would be quite handy would be an autoresponder. The Southampton website already has live flight arrival/departure info, and a form that lets you enter either a flight number or a departure/destination airport for arrivals and departures respectively.

Southampton airport

The “accessible” page provides a simpler view of the information, though the URL is not as friendly as it might be…:


Southampton airport

The search URL is even more hostile:


which looks like it requires the presence of tokens or dynamically created data.

SOuthampton airport flights board

So what might an autoresponder look like? Even if all we do is redirect the flight status information, we might imagine an exchange like the following:

@sou_airport_flightStatus BE173

would return something like:

@example BE173 dep 15.40 Tues 21/10 LEEDS B/FORD SCHEDULED

or for BE3646:

@example BE3646 BERGERAC sch_dep 14:05 arr ESTIMATED 19:03

Alternatively, the airport could just re-factor its (paid for) SMS service (which I think is operated by BAA, as it seems to be available for several other UK airports):

Flight status SMS

Flying Messenger – check flights by SMS
Need flight updates on the move? Flying Messenger lets you check flights at Southampton Airport by mobile phone text message (SMS).

How to use it
Text sou (for Southampton) plus your flight number to 82222.
So for example, if your flight number is BE1846, your text should read:
sou be1846
You’ll receive a reply giving the current status of your flight.

When to use it
This service is available up to 12 hours ahead of the flight’s scheduled time, and up to four hours afterwards. Requests must be sent on the scheduled date.
If you need to set up an alert in advance, please see Flying Messenger PLUS.

What it costs
Each Flying Messenger request costs 25p plus your network’s SMS message rate. If you’re using a pre-pay phone, you need to have enough credit to cover the cost of the service.

As to the amount of distress caused to folk traveling over the last few days, and the stress that several UK airports have been under because of travelers turning up for already cancelled flights, it amazes me that BAA aren’t willing to buy a bundle of free texts and offer a free SMS autoresponder information service…

Author: Tony Hirst

I'm a Senior Lecturer at The Open University, with an interest in #opendata policy and practice, as well as general web tinkering...

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