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May 19, 2005 12:02 AM

Broken: Orbitz search results

OrbitzScott Palmer writes:

This screenshot from Orbitz shows some results for a flight I was trying to book online from Baltimore to New York.  This is a simple hop, a commuter flight.  Both results shown in the screenshot require an overnight stay and a stopover in Salt Lake City, Utah!

This turns a trip that's only 170 miles into one that's over 3800 miles - amazing! There has to be some "common sense" in the process; no human travel agent would have come up with these flight options.


Though I agree with you about it being broken, the cheap pricing on the flight is probably because you'd be connecting in hub city(ies).

A question: why are you flying if it's only 170 miles? Couldn't you just drive? It's not that far.

...maybe your car is broken.

Posted by: Isaac at May 19, 2005 03:03 AM

I guess the cheap price argument would make sense, but... $424 for 170 mile flight???

Posted by: Zephyr at May 19, 2005 05:43 AM

it is worthy to mention that the first flights they showed were non-stop starting at $220, the problem is some carriers might not have flights between the two cities so the site will display the closest thing it has, a flight to a hub and back

Posted by: Vic at May 19, 2005 07:36 AM

It is broken. The model for decisions to determine which flights are in and which are out simply isn't good enough to discriminate between ones that are reasonable and ones that are clearly stupid.

Posted by: Carlos Gomez at May 19, 2005 07:52 AM

I do have a car, and no, it wasn't broken. :)

Posted by: Scott Palmer at May 19, 2005 08:26 AM

Notice the scroll bar on the right. The screenshot was taken from the bottom of the page. It looks like this option is the last option given.

If it were the first option in the list, I would say that is broken. However, we are seeing the last item in the list. Presumably there are options that not only are more direct but perhaps are cheaper as well, that are higher up on the list.

The airline in question probably has a hub in Salt Lake City. The website is programmed to find reasonably-priced alternatives. The alternative makse sense to the server: It meets all of the parameters entered by the user. The fact that the total route is 3800 miles long probably dropped it to the bottom of the list, below all the more-resaonable alternatives.

Without seeing what other options are in the list (and having used Orbitz many times without a problem), I say this is not broken.

Posted by: Jay at May 19, 2005 09:18 AM

I'd say most everyone here is broken. God, you people love to bitch about why things aren't broken that show up here. Isn't this supposed to be "for entertainment purposes only"? The orbitz thing is that- an amusing thing that doesn't make all that much sense.

Find something real to complain about- the US administration polluting the country, the decline of education, freeing tibet, whatever. Don't waste all that angst you have on this. Now, taking my own advice, I'm off to nuke the gay christ for the whales.

Posted by: kl at May 19, 2005 09:39 AM

"It is broken. The model for decisions to determine which flights are in and which are out simply isn't good enough to discriminate between ones that are reasonable and ones that are clearly stupid."

Who decides what is "clearly stupid"? There's some cutoff point, but it's arbitrary. Is doubling a trip too much? Tripling?

More specifically, who decides what information the user gets and what is hidden from them?

Posted by: DaveC426913 at May 19, 2005 09:42 AM

kl, most of us are pros here, and fixing a broken world is what we do.

Go find a board that meets your interests.

Posted by: DaveC426913 at May 19, 2005 09:44 AM

Hey, having a bonus day to see Salt Lake City wouldn't be all bad, if you have the time.... ;-)

Posted by: Erich at May 19, 2005 10:08 AM


Yes cut-off points will be arbitrary, and the reality is that there is a fuzzy border rather than a clean line that delineates reasonable from stupid.

But a 3,800 mile itinerary for a 170 mile trip is still clearly stupid.

Obviously there is criteria for eliminating astoundingly stupid trips otherwise we'd have routes via China. The criteria need tightening up to remove the clearly stupid as well.

Posted by: Carlos Gomez at May 19, 2005 10:31 AM

Actually, I know people who are frequent-flier devotees, and who LOVE to take trips like this to rack up the miles. I don't know if Orbitz is catering to this minority, but it certainly excites this segment of the flying population.

I also feel that this screenshot demonstrates the wide range of choices Orbitz offers as an online aggregator. What if you've got a buddy in Salt Lake City and don't mind catching up on your reading on a long plane flight? That's not the kind of information they ask you up front to stick into their algorithim, but if you happened to see this flight option it might be appealing in this case.

I will refrain from commenting about whether or not "this is broken".

Posted by: Robby Slaughter at May 19, 2005 10:47 AM

To Ki and all the others who complain that the boards 'are stupid, find something else to complain about, like global warming, bush, etc.'...

TAKE YOUR OWN ADVICE AND STOP COMPLAINING ABOUT 'THIS IS BROKEN.' If our 'complaints' are broken, then certaininly your complaining about them is even more so.

What's also broken is the fact that you can't see the contradictory, oxymoronic nature of your post.

Posted by: Michael at May 19, 2005 12:15 PM

There are plenty of other geography related pages out there like this. For instance, does an interesting thing when producing directions from Waterloo, ON (canada) to Cincinnati, OH (USA).

Compare the following two links:,+OH,+USA&daddr=Waterloo,+ON&hl=en,+ON&daddr=Cincinnati,+OH,+USA&hl=en

One is a "reverse directions" of the other. Many map sites such as this one have broken algorithms that provide something *far* from being the shortest distance trip. I can't remember the cities, but I remember seeing one such example from Norway that involved a trip across the North Sea to Denmark, across the English Channel, through the UK, and back onto a boat, to get to another part of Norway.

These are definitely broken algorithms, and turning a 170 mile trip into a 3800 mile trip is clearly rediculous. I do wonder what their cut-off point is. Is it the same country? Could you get routed through Anchorage or Hawaii? This is probably unlikely, as neither of those would be hub locations, but the point remains.

Posted by: anitsirK at May 19, 2005 12:25 PM

Yeah I tried an experiment from gainesville,fl to jacksonville florida....71 miles away.... obviously probaly a better option to just drive..especially with the local airport. but anyway.. the last options they gave me were 1's that had you flying to Miami and then to Tampa and then Finally arriving in Jacksonville after around 6 hours and costing $619 for a round trip.. they only need to add a connection through pensacola to have you flying over the whole state for a 70 mile trip LOL...

Not Broken...ALthough maybe the part that is broken is that they should have a big bold suggestion to how much it is to rent a car to make the trip yourself LOL

The cheapest was 387 and just had 1 connection in tampa...

Posted by: Infinity at May 19, 2005 04:04 PM

In a similar vein (vain?), a DHL driver told me that overnight letters sent from Chicago suburbs TO Chicago suburbs went through their hub in DAYTON OH! Also, even though your UPS driver has your ground deliveries AND your next day air deliveries on the truck when he makes your nda delivery by 1030, he is not allowed to delivery the ground until later lest you figure out you can get nda service at ground pricing.

yes, all these things are broken including the (I really want to say twit, but I'm just going to say) person who wants to complain about political issues (uh, go to Yahoo, eh!) on this board!. Duh!

But it is the crazy mixed up topsy turvy often broken sometimes not world we have created, maintained and live in!

Posted by: Robert A. Dugger at May 19, 2005 04:22 PM

For further entertaining Orbitz debacles, see

Posted by: Bryan Talbot at May 19, 2005 04:29 PM

"Hey, having a bonus day to see Salt Lake City wouldn't be all bad, if you have the time.... ;-)"

Guess you haven't SEEN Salt Lake City, have you?

Posted by: Boris the Spider at May 19, 2005 06:28 PM

Just anothers example of the compleatly illogical and unreasonable service you get when you try and get a machine to do the job of a human.

Posted by: faxtar at May 19, 2005 07:08 PM

I live in South Dakota which is centrally located. We are close to nothing and there are no flights, so I can't make an informed comment. Personally I like to travel, you have to if you're going to get anywhere from here. I do find it amusing, however, that there are people who are, like myself, interested in reading what other people say about the topic. That has got to be where the interest is with this, not whether something is broken or not. God bless, Preacher.

Posted by: preacher at May 20, 2005 02:29 AM

yeah shut up ki

Posted by: dhertye at May 20, 2005 07:55 AM

kl, most of us are pros here, and fixing a broken world is what we do.

Go find a board that meets your interests.

Posted by: DaveC426913 at May 19, 2005 09:44 AM

Yeah, we're really fixin' the broken stuff in the world by posting on here. Yessir.

Posted by: T-1000 at May 20, 2005 10:06 AM

I've got to say that the frequent flyer junkies who'd love such a trip are "broken." My mind recoils in horror to think that someone would pay almost double and fly to the other side of the United States in order to get some miles. To Salt Lake City, no less.

If you have a job, or can pan-handle effectively, you're bound to make more money than what those frequent flyer miles are worth.

Moreover, you get a 1000 bonus miles for booking directly through and (I think). Just book two flights for the same price directly from the carrier. Or take southwest where miles traveled don't mean as much.

Posted by: Tom at May 20, 2005 10:35 AM

to t-1000 shut up crack head

Posted by: dfgh at May 20, 2005 02:55 PM

Not broke just retarded

Posted by: El Gato at May 20, 2005 02:56 PM

Something that's really broken is how sites list *almost all* of the airlines. It's really easy to look up a flight on these aggregators, find the cheapest one and buy it, without even realizing that JetBlue or Southwest easily beats the price.

Posted by: Smackfu at May 20, 2005 03:20 PM

Definitely broken. Also, just a related story:

I live in Mayfield Heights, OH, a small city near Cleveland (population about 20,000). Once in the summer of 2004, I decided to go to Pioneer Waterland (which I learned really stunk, just so you know) in Chardon, OH. Chardon is a semi-rural town 20 or so miles away; I say semi-rural because it is 20 or so miles away from Cleveland. Using RandMcnally online directions, since preffering MapQuest to RandMcNally is kind of like preffering Internet Explorer to Mozilla Firefox, I got a route which I didn't know was ridiculous until I looked at a road map and found out. You see, the computer route involved going on approximately 12 roads. Really. When all I needed was 7, mostly one road, Route 6. Why, whaddayaknow, all the others do a variation on the same thing. Thanks, RandMcNally, I've now learned that the mapping skills of a website are equilavent to those of Bugs Bunny on crack. "Hmmm, maybe I should've made a left at I-271. . ."

Posted by: nickd at May 20, 2005 05:01 PM

Eh, this is just like the problem of having to go North in order to get South.

I had a friend who wanted to go to Florida to see her family. I live in North Carolina. Now, in order for her to fly from her in NC to Florida, she first had to go to Cleveland and then to Florida.

See, it's not the terrorists that are keeping the people off the planes, it's the insane trips one are asked to take in order to go a very short distance. With the price of fuel these days you'd figure they'd change these policies and cut their costs. That might stop the pilots from going on strike.

Posted by: Billy at May 21, 2005 12:06 AM

Hey, you were lookin at this flight on my b/day, pretty cool man... thats pretty trippy that you would go from the east coast to almost west coast to go only a few miles, maybe orbitz is trying to recruit you to be a mormon or something... thats all salt lake is about, no liquor or caffiene unless they own a manufacture of said stuff... wow, orbitz sucks, salt lake sucks too unless your moron, sorry, mormon and have 1200 kids with the fugly wife, i hate utah! its a broken down site...

Posted by: highinak at May 21, 2005 04:47 AM

I've seen worse. I forget the exact routing but it was to the orient. The correct routing was two hops, one to California and then one more to cross the ocean.

However, one of the ocean-hopping flights actually originated in Chicago. Thus the idiot computer system offered me a routing to California then to Chicago and then to the orient with a stopover in the very same city! Yes A -> B -> C -> B -> D.

Posted by: Loren Pechtel at May 22, 2005 01:17 PM

*cough* You're using Safari??? *has heart attack*

Posted by: one who is greater than thou at May 29, 2005 06:54 PM


Posted by: Alex Dodd at June 1, 2005 06:18 PM

It's Delta's fault, not Orbitz. Delta has a large hub in Salt Lake, so you connect there! Simple airline connect in a hub city!

Posted by: Bob at June 8, 2005 11:23 PM

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