After two days of pure relaxation in Eilat, we were ready to take on Jerusalem, like many who had before us! At 8:00 AM January 6, 2009 we are at Eilat airport ready to board our hour-long flight to Tel Aviv (from where we would take a train to Jerusalem). Sounds easy right?

So we arrive at the airport and go through almost an hour or so of security (body search, full bag search, lots of questions on where we were from and why we are here and stuff we have – all fine with us) then we finally get to the Israir counter to check-in our bags. We were early (can’t be bad right?) but they don’t accept check-ins six months early! WTF!!

It turned out that they did have our reservation, except that instead of having a reservation for January 6, 2009 the reservation was for June 1, 2009. Our first instinct was that we made a mistake. But how could that be! Luckily the airport had free wi-fi and so I quickly checked all my documents and uncovered the real issue! An i18n bug on the Israir website!

So here is what happened:

I booked my flight using Israirs (utterly crappy) website, which only works on Windows with Internet Explorer, which in itself should have alarmed me. Here is a screen shot of their booking website that I used with the date picker:

Screenshot of the Israir website date-picker

Notice how the site itself says MM-DD-YY!

Now Israel uses the British system of dates: DD-MM-YY instead of the American system that is on my browser (and their website): MM-DD-YY. Ideally, their server should have understood my browsers setting and adjusted accordingly – but then that would be asking too much of a website that works only on Windows/IE, right?

After the booking I got a confirmation mail with the ordered by date as: 01/02/2009 . Now since I had made the booking on January 2, 2009 I had no choice but to read this date as: January 2, 2009 and NOT as February 1, 2009 simply because I could not have made a booking on a future date! So I simply assumed that all was well and my request to fly on January 6, 2009 was well understood by their website.

However, at the airport, they showed me their monitors and it clearly said June 1, 2009 for us! Confirmed tickets and all! Here we were, at the airport, on a slightly tight schedule, tickets fully paid and could not fly! I tried to explain to the ticket-counter ladies and showed them the screen-shots of Israirs website and confirmation date and how the mishap could have happened. They insisted that I had booked for June 2009 and hence there was nothing they can do. Clearly my explanations of how software internationalization and localization works meant little to them.

So finally, they decided to be nice to us and said they’d charge us $20 each to rebook for a later flight that day – which, since we had no choice, we accepted.I asked one of the ladies how I can take up this with their head office and she gave me an email address to contact someone. I typed up an explanation and attached the screen-shots explaining the mishap and that Israir was charging me $20 extra unfairly but to this day neither have the emails bounced back nor have I received a reply. I have also made submissions via their customer service/contact us forms on their website with no response.

While the ticket counter ladies were helpful and the flight was absolutely event-less, the goal of my post is to:

  • Document the problem we had with our Israir booking
  • Warn about such mishaps (and they can happen anywhere)
  • Warn against the broken Israir website
  • Bring to attention the absolute lack of customer service on Israirs part.

Next time I’ll try Arkia or take the bus!