I’ve previously examined the flight search experience on APAC’s budget airlines, and now it’s time to turn the spotlight on the premium end of the market.

This time though I’ve looked at the process of buying a flight and how easy it is to get through the checkout.

Airlines probably have greater freedom than other industries when it comes to web design, as purchase decisions tend to be driven by cost so people are less likely to drop out just because the checkout is tricky to use.

But with an ever-increasing focus on the customer experience, airlines need to ensure their websites match their best-in-class aspirations.

I looked at the UX to see whether the reality matches the advertising, but first here's the criteria we look for in checkout design:

  • Speed. Pauses after pressing the buy/confirm payment button are the worst. Delays in loading before that may be enough to damage customer confidence in the whole payment process. 
  • Security reassurance. This perhaps isn't as important for airlines as for apparel or FMCG brands, but people will still want to know their card details are safe.
  • Easy form filling. People hate forms, so brands should make it as painless as possible. Admittedly this is more of a challenge for airlines as they require a lot of information to confirm a booking.
  • Progress indicators. The customer should know where they are in the process and what else needs to be done to complete the purchase. 
  • Persistent booking summary. Remind users of the booking details and the total cost of the order so they don't have to leave the checkout for this information. 

So, which of these airlines is getting it right? Read on to find out, or for more on this topic check out my post on whether APAC hotel websites are living up to customer expectations.

Singapore Airlines

Singapore Airlines’ site feels a bit dated. The copy is uninspiring and it uses a dull colour scheme, so overall it’s quite difficult to understand.

The forms themselves feel extremely long as the airline doesn’t offer any user shortcuts, such as real-time error checking.

I also feel that the process could be shortened, as after choosing a flight there are still five screens to get through before you get to the final confirmation.

On the plus side, Singapore Airlines is up front with its costs, uses a progress indicator, and accepts several alternative payment options.

Users can also make a seat selection within the checkout process.

 

Malaysia Airlines

Malaysia Airlines would also benefit from updating its website, as it currently uses the same bland, text-heavy template as Singapore Airlines.

The font and text fields are too small, which means that the information is difficult to scan so passengers can’t easily check their flight details.

The overall aesthetic is unimpressive and doesn’t portray the airline as a modern, customer-focused business.

Looking on the bright side, the checkout does offer a few useful features such as a progress indicator and a persistent basket summary, but really that’s clutching at straws.

Cathay Pacific

Another premium airline with an unimpressive website. Selecting a flight on Cathay’s website is quite confusing, and things don’t improve much at the checkout.

The colour scheme means that nothing stands out, and there’s nothing to assist the user or generate any sense of urgency.

The final payment screen is extremely long and there’s nothing to draw the user’s attention to the various radio buttons so it’s easy to miss things while you’re scrolling down.

Overall there’s little that can be said to praise the Cathay Pacific website. It’s difficult to use and in need of an upgrade.

Qantas

Finally a website that looks relatively modern. Qantas only has four screens before completion and its use of white space means that the information is easier to scan and check.

The forms are still quite long, but they are less cluttered and the CTAs are bold and clear.

At the payment screen passengers need only fill in their card details before clicking ‘Pay now’, yet due to Qantas’ attempt to upsell insurance the form still requires a lot of scrolling.

Japan Airlines

For some reason Japan Airlines requires users to complete the booking form within a pop up window, which is just the start of the UX issues.

As I’ve come to expect, Japan Airlines has a cluttered checkout that requires users to work hard to make a purchase.

Small fonts and text fields are the order of the day, and the wide array of colours means that nothing really stands out.

At the final payment screen there’s just too much going on. The end result is that even though there are only three or four fields to fill in, the page is quite difficult to complete.

In conclusion…

With the exception of Qantas, the user experience on offer from these airlines is quite poor.

I previously noted that travel purchases are often driven by price so web design is probably less of a priority for these companies, however these are premium airlines so one would expect them to have put more effort into their ecommerce design.

Digital is key to the customer experience so these brands need to offer a more user-friendly purchase journey.

We’ve seen in Europe that Ryanair has belatedly revamped its digital offering as part of a broader plan to improve the overall customer experience.

If budget airlines are aware of the importance of digital, then there’s no excuse for premium brands such as Cathay Pacific and Singapore Airlines to offer up such a poor user experience.

David Moth

Published 17 October, 2014 by David Moth

David Moth is Editor and Head of Social at Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn

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Comments (1)

Andrew King

Andrew King, Sr. Strategy Consultant at Lyris

I'm biased, but Air New Zealand offers a pretty good experience in my opinion. They have a really nice table to show you different prices in the month that you want to travel. Their follow up emails after you book are far better than most airlines too - http://blog.lyris.com/email-inspiration-a-useful-email-from-air-new-zealand/

over 3 years ago

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