Tim Roxborogh’s travel bugs: Having your shortened name on your flight booking

A weekly ode to the joys of moaning about your holidays.

As the Interislander-loving Waratahs once sang, “What a way to start a holiday!” I’ve had cause to mutter this line (with somewhat less jubilance than the Waratahs) over the years, normally while battling sea sickness of biblical proportions while crossing the Cook Strait.

Though the last time this not-quite-iconic Kiwi catchphrase popped into my head and out of my mouth in ironic fashion had nothing to do with ferries or choppy seas. It was a few months ago and I was heading to Australia for a travel writing trip, only I very nearly didn’t make it on the plane. The reason? Tim Roxborogh versus Timothy Roxborogh.

The dear person who’d booked my flights had used the name I’ve been called for the past 30-odd years: Tim Roxborogh. Only problem is — and I’m sure you’ve guessed it — that’s not the name on my passport.

As it was explained to me while nervously looking at my watch and making frantic phone calls, there’s a three-letter rule that may or may not be strictly official but is generally applied. What this means is that the “othy” of Timothy exceeded the three-letter rule by one solitary letter. Despite protestations that clearly Tim is short for Timothy and there’s considerable evidence that I am both Tim Roxborogh and Timothy Roxborogh, the name on the booking was too many letters different from the name on my passport. It’s a security issue and I wasn’t getting on board.

Or so I thought, but finally a phone was answered, another call was made, a back and forth ensued and just as I was about to have a hernia, an agent was able to change the details of my booking remotely. The whole episode was 45 minutes of worry that probably took a year off my life. But the lesson was learned: double and triple-check that if you’re a Benjamin/Ben, a Jonathan/Jon, Melissa/Mel or Timothy/Tim, that it’s your full name on the booking. What a way to start a holiday.

Automated check-in machines

Are we really there yet with self-check-in technology at airports? Don’t get me wrong, I want us to be, but I’m yet to catch a flight where there aren’t at least a couple of people struggling with the non-breeze that is too often the self check-in. It’s the same at supermarket self checkouts. I know how they work and I know what I’m meant to do. And yet, can I make it through a supermarket visit without “unexpected item in bagging area” cramping my style? The struggle is real.

Given my ratio of actual unexpected items in the bagging area to the number of times I’ve been told of an “unexpected item” is approximately 0-200 (give or take), I’ve decided I hate supermarket self checkouts. If the day arrives that non-shoplifters like me can buy goods hassle-free and without random accusations of “unexpected items”, great, I’m all for it. But in 2018, we’re not quite there.

Likewise with self check-in for flights. The mental image I have is of vaguely harried airport staff members bouncing from one failed kiosk experience to another as they either show the passengers what they’ve been doing wrong, or more crucially, discover some glitch that requires a manual check-in.

The latter is the key issue: if we are just dealing with the limitations of the human mind to get to grips with new fandangled systems, then given a bit of time, passengers will all get so used to self check-in that it will be second nature. Mostly, this is true, but — and this is back to the 2018 thing — we still seem to be dealing on a too frequent basis with limitations of technology. As in, plenty of us are fine with computers, don’t get flustered using a machine and understand things like scanners and how to hold your passport down. We want to like the kiosks; maybe we even do like the kiosks. But too frequently the kiosks don’t like us. What a way to start a holiday.

Tim Roxborogh hosts Newstalk ZB’s Weekend Collective and blogs at RoxboroghReport.com

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