Consider the Source

@Kevin | Strategy

Last week when I was flying home from Portland my plane was delayed on the runway for a few minutes. After about 10 minutes of just sitting parked on the runway the Captain announced that there was some issues with weather around Chicago and we were going to be delayed about 30 minutes before we took off. About five minutes after that I received a text message from Orbitz saying that the average delay time going into Chicago was 90 minutes due to snowfall limiting the number of hourly landings.

Immediately I turned to the passenger sitting next to me, a middle-aged woman who was traveling with her husband and showed her the text, the couple wanted to know where it was from? I explained to them it was from the service where I booked my flight from and that when you book through them you could elect to receive alerts about your trip. The wife said, “Well how do you know that is right the Captain just said it would be only 30 minutes?”

That got me thinking. I had what was essentially a primary source just tell me information about my flight. (The captain.) And I decided to ignore that source and believe a secondary source that came in via text message. (Orbitz) Why did I do that? Was it the medium that it was delivered? Was it me being cynical? Did one give me the answer I wanted to hear?

The first reason I believed Orbitz over the Captain is based on past performance. I have flown a lot in my lifetime and every time I have been given an estimated delay time it was always off by at least 45 minutes. “We’ll be leaving in 30 minutes” has turned into hours on more than one occasion. This information was always taken directly from the airline. (I know these are “estimates” but on more than one occasion it seemed like the times were given more appeasement than anything.)

Orbitz has never given me wrong information.

I think that the second reason had to do with the medium. Automatically when I get a short burst of information electronically, with no opinion attached to it, I believe it because this is the medium I deal in most often. (I should know better.)  Hearing a voice over a PA system no longer outranks straight data to me and I am not sure if that is good or bad.

Eventually we took off, 35 minutes after the Captain announced we would be on the runway for half an hour and 85 minutes earlier that what Orbitz said. I guess maybe I need to reconsider the value I place on each source of information.

Is your evaluation of information colored by past experience, the medium that delivers it, or other factors?