Thursday, July 10, 2008

Does your airline know where it's going?

I reckon that airlines have a very limited geographical understanding, limited to airports and without any understanding of the geographical context in which they are situated. I first began to suspect this when a data cleansing company (fortunately no longer extant) claimed American Airlines amongst its customers, and also claimed to be able to cleanse addresses for "more than 300 countries".

To save you having to run to an atlas to start counting, you'd be hard pressed, regardless of your definition of a country, to find many more than 240 on this planet.

My suspicions grew when I saw this SWISS map on the incomparable Strangemaps blog:

Now, the errors may not seem immediately obvious, but a great many cities have migrated significant distances away from their real locations. Pittsburgh is looking particularly moist, slap bang in the middle of Lake Eric, and Santiago in Chile has lost its name.

Then I was sure, after the same blog published a map from Aer Lingus:

I'm not sure how pleased the Americans would be to find so many of their cities placed in the north of Canada, but I'm pretty sure I know how Canadians would react.

I get the feeling that these errors have more to do with trying to get the maps looking nice and uncrowded than not knowing where places are; but this shows quite a lot of disrespect for the intelligence of their passengers. I'm looking forward to the next example, possibly showing London somewhere in the vicinity of Rome? I'm taking bets as to which airline it shall be!


One of the rules of an effective data collection web form is that drop downs should only be used when the number of possible answers is limited, and that all of those answers are given in the drop down.

The Guardian reported on 7th July that Facebook has blundered in this respect as their marital status question gives plenty of options - even including "it's complicated", but not including (same sex) civil partnerships (as available in the UK) or registered partnerships (as they are known in some other countries, such as The Netherlands).

It may not be possible for Facebook to research and know all the possible civil status possibilities around the world, but at least they have now provided an option to clarify the answer given.

Not that this may be much of a salve for those involved.