Escape from Tehran: Big Data Edition

A new query tool has been posted online that purportedly searches all the flight booking services to find deals for travel. The name of the tool is “Escape” and the URL even is more interstingly:

For some reason the first thing that comes to mind for me is a series of US evacuation/escape stories from history. Whether it be Tehran (commercial jet), Saigon helicopter or even the March 24, 1944 plan to escape Nazi camps (as “immortalized” by Steve McQueen’s famous motorcycle freedom leap over walls), the marketing takes me here:

Real Americans Hate Nazi Walls

I wonder whether movie posters for “Great Escape” are what the site creators were thinking about when they named their product…

Marketing the film released to theaters on Independence Day, 1963. Based on the book by Paul Brickhill, True story of Allied prisoners who break out of Nazi detention camp. 76 of 250 prisoners escaped. 50 escaped prisoners were murdered by Nazi prison guards. 18 of those Nazis later were convicted of war crimes.

Let’s take Tehran as a simple example. We query a one-way escape flight query for tomorrow (unfortunately we can’t select January 27, 1980) and here is our map:

March 31, 2019 Escape from Tehran

Yes, I ran a bunch of queries for historic escapes by Americans using modern routes. This is probably why I’m not popular at some parties. Someone says “hey I found a vacation tool that maximizes my spend so I can consume more…” and I say “could it represent the shortest exit for Embassy staff rushed to leave a deteriorating political situation based on forged visa options?”

To be fair, some parties don’t mind these topics. I can see my next drinking session with security operations teams discussing and ultimately adding this tool to a list of things to consider when assessing travel risks and disaster response. It’s not just that people we care about are landing in some usually stable city for a meeting, it’s “who can deliver me a list of escapes for the next three days correlated with increasing probability of disaster?”

On second thought, what if the creators of the tool really are making a political statement about the current administration? The default configuration of the tool does seem to be finding inexpensive paths out of America. Have you planned your great escape?

Great Escape from…

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