Multi-tasking fail: Why we can’t always trust our phone apps

Estimated read time: 4 minutes

OMG. What a fail. You can only do one correctly at once:

Be on a conference call ✅

Find a gate ❌

Know where you are ❌

Pick one. ??‍♂️ Travel diaries Part 346 below ⬇️⬇️

Sometimes technology isn’t perfect. Like people. They’re not perfect either. And of course when some situations don’t play out perfectly they often make good stories. Here’s one of those that happened to me as I was flying into New York City in 2018.

That January was a super busy travel month as you can see here so maybe I was letting things become too much of a routine.

As you’re probably aware if you read any of my travel posts ever, I fly American Airlines most of the time. American recently switched terminals at New York’s LaGuardia airport and no longer flies into terminal C. They fly into terminal B. The app for American Airlines was telling me that my flight was landing at gate five in terminal D anyway.

I was in town to meet with some interior design experts and my travel companion-if we can use that term even though she was flying Delta Airlines. See Delta also was flying into terminal D. In fact, her arrival gate was just two over in terminal D. Surprisingly convenient.

Related: Why you never want to switch airlines during one trip

Typically, when two people fly different airlines into the same airport it’s quite a hassle to meet up at the airport but no problem here as we are flying into the same terminal. As soon as I landed I hopped on a conference call and continued on that conference call while walking to her gate. There was a plane at the gate and passengers were boarding. I simply thought that I missed her and she’s probably waiting outside security. So I walked outside security and waited for her there.

Turns out that she hadn’t even arrived. Not a big deal as according to my app I was in terminal D and she was also arriving in terminal D.

I patiently waited and continued on my phone calls, having now switched over to another conference call. A little while later I got the text saying that she also was now outside.

After some further investigation it turned out that I was actually in terminal B and not terminal D. As you can see here the two are nowhere near each other:

However, since I was going by what was in the app I had no idea that I was quite a ways from where I thought I was.

Now, I did tweet at American Airlines and let them know about the apparent issue and even updated my app and reinstalled it and it still showed terminal D.

After further discussion and investigation, it turns out the app wasn’t actually showing anything incorrectly but the B terminal at LaGuardia has a wing of D gates. Take a look here:

I’ve never run into this before. Terminals at O’Hare in Chicago, for example, have numbers and each has lettered wings. Terminal 3 has G, H, K and L Gates, for example. At JFK, terminals have numbers and terminal 4 has gates in the 40s.

Stuff happens. Now I know. And it actually makes me wonder how easy it could be for me to go to the wrong gate. I trust the app quite often at airports. I’m hanging out in the lounge and leave as late as possible for my gate and then barely look at the board.

Now, in the gate area I should’ve been able to catch that I wasn’t at terminal B and not terminal D but once I walked outside I didn’t see any signs that said what terminal I was in. In fact, to verify where I actually was I had to ask somebody.

So I guess the lesson of the story is right in line with the saying I once spotted on an Iowa interstate sign: Get your head out of your apps.

I did end up doing that completely on my last leg into Manhattan and didn’t even use a ridesharing service but hopped into a traditional yellow cab: