Bill P. Godfrey et al

Wednesday, January 18, 2006


On my way back from the US, my flight (with KLM) from Atlanta airport was cancelled. Instead, they got me a flight (with Delta) to New York JFK to pick up KLM's trans-atlantic flight.

So far so good, but when I arrived in New York, I had to find the departure for my next flight with KLM. This wasn't planned so I didn't have a full itinerary, just the flight number. The big board only had Delta flights listed and it was late in the evening so there was no-one staffing the information desk. And I didn't even know which terminal I wanted.

But, I had the KLM information line! All I'd have to do was call it and find my next flight! And it was a free number too!

So I called it from a payphone in the airport. It answered and a recorded voice asked by to dial or speak the flight number I wanted. I'm no stranger to automatic phone systems, so I just dialed the flight number.

Then, it read the number back to me and asked to if it was correct, and to say "Yes" or "No". Then, I was at the mercy of a deranged gatekeeper who wanted me to say "Yes" in the right way.

Clearly, my accent is too English. I tried a few more times, trying on a fake American accent. It was a good job the airport was empty as I must have looked like an idiot going "yes yes yes" in increasingly bizarre ways.

But really, what's the worse that could happen by reading out information for the wrong flight number? After all, if the automatic operator reads back the flight number and its wrong, all the caller would have to do is hang up and try again.

I've since been informed that my fake American accent sounds more like Russian. My Russian accent sounds French. My French accent sounds Swedish. My Swedish accent just sounds like the chef off the Muppets.


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