It makes no cents

The London Olympics were magnificently staged and delivered. Even without the barrage of medals, we should be proud of the ability to deliver such a massive project with such precision. However, I want to celebrate some of the incredible attention to detail shown by some airlines in Latin America.

This recent message from Ecuadorian airline Tame announces their new flight between Quito and Lima. In case you can't see the image clearly, the price Quito-Lima return is $299.50. In contrast, the price Lima-Quito return is $299. 54. Given that these prices are from ('desde') you would think that they would be able to let those pesky 4 cents just slide in order to massively simplify the message. But no, in the brave new world of precision pricing, accuracy is everything.

You look at a departure board pretty much anywhere in the world and flight departures and arrivals are at 5 minute intervals. No such vagueness in Brazil, leaders in precision timetabling. Flights there are scheduled to depart at times like 15:32 or 00:17.

Given the complexity of airline scheduling, tweaks to timetables are the rule rather than the exception. You'd be amazed at how many of these tweaks are contained within that 5-minute margin of error. We know because in Brazil if a flight time changes by 1 minute (and they do) we get a  "schedule change notification". It's quite normal that between booking and clients flying we'll get four or five of these notifications, each of which needs to be checked and signed off by us.

Rather than get annoyed at this time wastage, we've turned it into a game: how close to the original departure time you can get with the most changes. I think the record is six changes eventually settling back on precisely the original departure time, 08:46. What time the plane actually took off is anyone's guess of course.

Finally, this brings me to the team who run our hikes in Brazil's beautiful Chapada Diamantina. This year's discussions on rates have included precision catering. As of 2013, the picnic lunches will contain "2 sandwiches, 1 fruit, 1 fruit juice, 1 egg, 1 tomato, 1 gum, dry fruit, 1 candy and a peanut."

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