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20180711 On the way to Manila and Taipei, something arises.

Nigel Morris-Cotterill

I'm preparing for a trip to Manilla 24 - 27 July 2018 and Taipei from 30 July - 4th August 2018 and if anyone would like to book me to present an in-house seminar or briefing session during those times, check out the list of topics and let me know ASAP.

And so it was, with airline tickets on my mind that I read a question on a bulletin board that took me by surprise. I'm constantly bemused by how what seems absolutely normal to be seems to be something new or intellectually challenging to others.

Take, for example, the bizarre article in an Australian news website recently. One of the really big ones. With lots of readers. They were crowing that one of their readers had pointed out a "hack" for hotel rooms that require you to leave your key in a slot to keep the power (and therefore the air-con) on. The key card is the same size as a credit card, the correspondent had discovered and breathlessly said that any card or, even, a piece of cardboard the same size would work.

Seriously. This is what passes for intellectual development and a contribution to the sum of human knowledge? Is there honestly anyone who has not worked that out and, in most cases, at least fifteen years ago. It's not that the correspondent was amazed that was the most surprising factor for me: it's that the editorial team at the newspaper didn't spike it but, instead, wrote a whole article about how brilliant this "hack" was.

At least no editorial staff are involved in the posting to a bulletin board but the replies show that even complete idiots can get their opinion on the internet and, as we all know, if it's on a computer screen, it must be true, right? I've been trying to get people to understand the fallacy of that view for decades and, as the fake news thing shows, I've not been very successful.

The poster's particular issue was that a relative had run into trouble booking an airline ticket because it says "name EXACTLY as in passport" but the form rejects the hyphen in her name.

Tell me about it.

I've been having this problem since before the internet was popular. Actually, since before the internet was made public. The reason is simple: in the mists of time, attempts to identify suspicious people, in particular IRA terrorists, who were hopping on and off aircraft with impunity. The reason was simple: computerised checking of names was rudimentary and all someone called O'Connor, for example, had to do was to move the apostrophe and the very literal system didn't spit it out as marked. So the rule was made that all punctuation had to be removed from names in tickets. Mr De'ath wasn't impressed because when people called out his name, well, you can get the idea.

So, quickly and easily, we all learned that out tickets and our passports would differ. So, filling in the booking form is just a question of leaving out the hyphen.

That's not where it often goes wrong. The woman posting about her relative's question hasn't got to the really bad place yet. That's when you come to pay. The people that have designed the booking form to exclude so-called special characters should still be in special programming school in which they learn about real life. That's because they have applied the same restriction to the credit card payment schemes. Credit card companies do want the hyphen because they want the name to match that on the card. So for quite a number of payment providers there's a conflict: the stripped name can order a ticket but can't pay for it.

Genius.

What baffles me is not that this is an issue but that she, and others, are surprised by it. Those who get their self-gratification by stating their support for a poster or saying something harsh have piled in with their one word answers, mostly critical of the airlines. I have several one-word descriptions for them. And none of them should be uttered in polite company.

She did have another criticism: my surname is 15 letters and a hyphen. One might think that would be enough for anyone but her relative's name is much longer - 25 letters plus a hyphen. The field length was 20 characters so there was no way it was going to fit. That's not a new problem either but in her case I'm not surprised by her I'm surprised by the moronic designers who do that and it never gets fixed: like my UK bank where the information field for payees is far to short for the name of many Malaysian companies - so I put in as much as I can, or I make obvious contractions, they send the money then the Malaysian bank sends it back saying the account name is wrong. No matter how many times I tell my bank, nor how many years I've been telling them, the problem persists.

System designers are even more stupid than people who think stuffing a bit of cardboard into a slot to keep the telly on when someone goes out of a hotel room taking the only key is a pretty neat idea.

ROFL? No. SHIA. Shakes head in amazement.

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