OAG Travel Service Aids Database Junket

Article excerpt

OAG Travel Service Aids Database Junket

That December deep freeze did it for me. It's tough enough to labor over Information Today Database Reviews day after day without having your fingers get so numb you can't feel your keyboard. I had to get away--anyplace where I could step outside and not see my breath. But travelling in style is expensive, and besides, how could I escape those onrushing Information Today deadlines?

My solution was inspiring. A Database Junket! Just like the politicians. I'd mix a little bit of business and a lot of pleasure, exploring the online information of some delightful clime, all on an Information Today expense account. It would be a journalistic breakthrough: "Databases of Bermuda," "Databases of Palm Springs," or even "Online Info of Australia" (it's summer there, you know).

Planning the database junket would be a snap with the Official Airlines Guide Electronic Edition Travel Service. You may still associate the OAG with airline schedules, which it continues to have in abundance, but there is now a lot more: a whole menu of travel-related databases that turns OAG into a multi-use travel planner for business or pleasure trips around the state or the world.

Flying to Anywhere

OAG's centerpiece remains its airline schedules, which list over 2.5 million flights by over 630 airlines around the world. Each schedule record tells you just about everything you want to know--departure and arrival times, model of plane, meals, stops, travel time--and a few things you don't--like the fare and how you can save 30 percent by returning at 3:55 AM on Saturday morning. OAG also indicates seat availability and can accept reservations.

The newest wrinkle in the OAG sechedule section is actual "arrival/departure" times for several major U.S. airports, including O'Hare, LaGuardia, Los Angeles International, and Dulles. It's somewhat unsettling to have this information displayed right there on your own home computer, since staring at a "Flight 505--DELAYED" notice dredges up memories of agonizing waits in dreary airline terminals. It makes you start to go to sleep in your chair with a folded up coat for a pillow.

Nevertheless, it is wonderful to have this enormous up-to-the-minute database at your fingertips. That is, if your fingertips know what they are doing. An OAG schedule display is an arcane mosaic of codes, abbreviations, symbols, and other esoterica, aggravated by the need to trudge back and forth between schedule and fare displays to pick your flight. If OAG could take some big steps toward user friendliness, there might be a lot more travellers who don't immediately balk and call the nearest travel agent for their airline arrangements.

Frequent Flyer Features

Many OAG users, however, have mastered its lingo because the service is oriented toward the business traveler who spends a lot of time in the air. OAG has several features to help players in that favorite game of air travel, Frequent Flyer Bonus Points. In this popular game, contestants see how widly they can contort their itineraries, such as accumulating 5.6 x [10.sup.3] miles using airports in four different time zones without missing a month with an "R" in it; winners get to do more of the same. OAG lists the bonus programs of the major airlines and hotel chains and covers special promotions. Another valuable aid for frequent flyers seeking hassle-free routes are reports of trouble spots like airport construction, airline disputes, taxi strikes, etc. …