FlightCaster: Yet Another Twitter Anecdote

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A month ago this upcoming weekend, I got massively delayed out of Portland, blew a connection in JFK and missed a wedding in Denver. This won’t surprise anyone who knows me or is a regular around here: I never get anywhere on time.

What was different this time was the fact that I used an iPhone application that I’d bought, built by a Y Combinator backed startup, that was supposed to algorithmically predict all of the above. Unfortunately, this trip out at least, it failed. But the user experience wasn’t all bad, as I’ll get to.

The basic premise is this: the application inputs a variety of data – departure and arrival airport statuses and weather, inbound aircraft location and so on – runs the numbers and gives you a best guess as to whether or not you’ll be delayed. Great idea, in my opinion.

Anyway, when we arrived at the airport, I was greeted by this screen.

The Day of Departure

That, for those of you not in the business, is what we call suboptimal. Still, when I turned to FlightCaster, it asserted that I was “Probably on Time.” Which would have been great news; I wanted to get to Denver both for the wedding and to see all of my friends out there.

The only catch was that it continued to assert this long after we were delayed.

Trying to Get There

Note the timestamp at the top of the screen. Worse, for FlightCaster, it had exactly the same trouble when we gave up and decided to return back to Portland.
Trying to Get Back

Almost three hours after we were supposed have taken off but hadn’t, FlightCaster was still saying that we were “Probably on Time.” That’s a bit of a problem, I think.

The good news in all of this is that in spite of the applications failure and a disastrous twelve hours spent flying to and from New York, one of the FlightCaster developers picked up on my comments on Twitter and was both immediately responsive and apologetic. Which made a big difference.

Was I happy that I’d spent $4.99 on an application that failed? Not at all. But the ability to interact with one of the people building it made a difference in my perception of the application.

I still can’t recommend it, but I’ll continue using it and might change my opinion at some point in the future. Which is pretty much all you could hope for given the quality of the initial experience.


  1. Hey-this is Jason from FlightCaster. I remember your post when we got it wrong and I’m glad that our quick reaction was valued–one of things we have to do right as a young start-up is respond to our users quickly–no matter what.

    In your case, our algorithm is actually getting the delay prediction right, but we goofed on actually displaying the right information. There was a bug in our iPhone app (100% our fault) that doesn’t update it with the most current information. We fixed it within 12 hours, but are now 3+ weeks waiting for Apple to approve the update.

    Thanks for being one of our early users and we look forward to helping you in your travels.

  2. haha, the perils of Great Firewall of Cupertino, eh

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