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How would you test this: Passenger Airline System (Markus Gärtner)

On July 13, 2012, in Syndicated, by Association for Software Testing
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This is an experience report that falls in many categories at the same time. I think the most remarkable one is the personal fail category (hooray, I learned something!).

As a consultant I do some fair amount of traveling. Most of the time I stay on the ground, though on my most recent trip to San Jose, CA for Test Coach Camp and CAST that was not an option. So, while lying jetlagged in the hotel room, I decided to blog about my trip here, and why I ended up testing a passenger airline system, which bugs I found, and which follow-up tests I can imagine to run from here.

A few months ago I booked my plane tickets to San Jose for CAST and Test Coach Camp. At that time, I was not totally whether I would start from home or whether I would be starting from some place else. I decided that it will be most likely that I will travel from home, and looked for flights from Düsseldorf – which is the most comfortable nearest-by airport for me – to San Francisco. I found several trips, among them one going through Munich. I decided to take that flight. For the case I ended up with a client gig in Munich, it would be easier for me re-schedule – leaving out the flight from Düsseldorf to Munich, and going from Munich instead.

When heading back, it seemed more comfortable to go through Frankfurt, and head home from there. So I ended up with the following flights:

  • Thursday, 12:50 fron Düsseldorf to Munich
  • Thursday, 16:05 from Munich to San Francisco
  • Next week, 14:55 San Francisco to Frankfurt

I booked them in segments.

At the end of last week it turned out that I will be in Munich on Tuesday and Wednesday for a client gig. Going home from Munich is a bit tedious for me. It takes 6 hours going by train, and close to as long going by plane considering traveling overhead. So, I decided to fly from Munich directly rather than going from Munich to home to go to Düsseldorf heading for Munich the next day.

As a user of the airplane system, I thought it would be ok if I headed to Munich airport by noon on Thursday, checking on my bags, and getting some food before leaving. That’s what I did. I checked my bags at 12:20, and headed for some food at the airport. My plane was going to leave at 16:05. So, once I checked in, I assumed everything quite fine for the time being.

When boarding finally started, I figured that was not the case. I was asked to have a chat with a clerk from the airline there. It seems since I didn’t check in in Düsseldorf the airplane system took me off from the connecting flight from Munich to San Francisco – automatically. Oh, and even though I already had checked in my baggage for that flight.

Now, it was not a problem to get me a seat on that plane, my bags didn’t make it on the plane. From a technical viewpoint it seems a bit weird for me to have a partial transaction (my bag) in the airline system, and have everything else cancelled. Something like a plausibility check could have prevented remaining portions of my transaction ending up in that system, and could have served as a heuristic for the check-in clerk who put my bag at noon.

I also interviewed the clerk what I could have done differently. He told me, that I should have phoned them. Fair enough.

So, while I now for some obvious reasons do not recommend to test an airplane system in production, here are a few questions that keep on puzzling me now, and should trigger some follow-up tests:

  • Where did my bag go once the system in Düsseldorf cancelled my connecting flight? It was already checked in in Munich at that time, I assume.
  • The airline woman who checked in my bag in Munich didn’t seem aware that I was supposed to check in my bags in Düsseldorf. Did she ignore that thought, or simply wasn’t aware?
  • Would there have been no problem at all if I showed up an hour or two later at the Munich airport?

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