Monday, 3 August 2015

Flight Plan

Jersey's assistant minister for sport, Steve Pallett, was due t to arrive in Bucharest in Romania for the handover ceremony of the Dance World Cup, which is to be hosted in the Channel Island next year. Instead he landed in Budapest, Hungary, some 530 miles away, after getting a ticket for the wrong flight. Pallet apologised for the mistake, which he described as a human error made by staff at the Education, Sport and Culture department. (International Business Times)

The booking was made by someone within the Education, Sport and Culture department and a spokesman said it was "human error". (BBC News)

So how did the mistake happen? How did the human error come about?

I put in a Freedom of Information request to find out, which currently for some reason is being reported as a "BBC Freedom of Information request" on their news website. It wasn't theirs; it was mine!

Following the mistaken booking of Constable Steve Pallett’s flight to Hungary rather than Romania, I would like to know:

Exactly how the mistake was made? i.e. what booking procedures were follows (website, checks by supervisor etc)


Whilst a written invitation and other correspondence clearly stated the correct destination of Bucharest, Romania, a request was made to arrange flights to Budapest. The person who booked the flights did not see a copy of the invitation to the event or any prior correspondence.

My comment:

This is rather vague! It suggests that the request was given verbally or by email, but that the words Bucharest become muddled somehow with the words Budapest., rather like Chinese whispers. Book to Budapest, we are going to a dance...! The contents and nature of that request are not given in the reply, and can only be surmised. That's not a very good response.

The method of preventing that sort of problem in the future might appear to have been tackled. However, when thay say ‘the person who booked the flights’ they are not talking about a bonfide travel agent, but a civil servant somewhere - probably in Education.

A travel agent would rake an instruction and hold flights pending confirmation, i.e. print an itinerary and send to the client for approval. Had that been the case I would think the error would have been discovered. It’s standard practice in the travel industry to seek confirmation before finalising the booking. Steve’s mix up appear to be the resullt of someone trying to do a job they are not trained to do.

With flights so easily booked on the internet its tempting to make travel arrangements - and so easy to make mistakes if you don’t follow procedures that the industry itself has adopted to avoid misbooking a client, which is so easily done on verbal instructions and no checking process.

What detailed protocols are now in place to double checking booking flights? Is there a written procedure?


From this point on, all travel will be booked following receipt of a written instruction that is accompanied by a copy of the invitation.

A ‘Travel Authorisation Form’ is completed for each travel arrangement. This form details reasons for travel, flight details and requires approval in line with the department’s scheme of delegation. All correspondence and documentation relating to the travel arrangements will be held with this form with immediate effect.

My comment:

Travel authorisation forms have been around for decades in the UK, in government, and in Universities. They create a paper trail to enable people to see who signed off on the expenditure involved.

It is about time that Jersey caught up, and it would be interesting to know if similar procedures are in place in Guernsey and the Isle of Man, and for how long they have been in place.

My reason for asking this question was that the press release had simply said "procedures had been tightened", which is suitably vague.

It is about time that instead of just coming out with the standard "Yes Minister" type of cliche, the details are also given out to show that the lessons have been learnt and mistakes are less likely to happen. Otherwise, how are we to know exactly how robust any new procedures are? Or indeed if they have been put in place?

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