A survey conducted by Econsultancy way back in 2011 found that three quarters of travel research takes place online.

It’s likely that this number has increased since then, however many travel sites are still lagging behind when it comes to the online user experience.

In Europe budget airlines are finally waking up to the fact that passengers expect websites to offer a decent UX, with easyJet and Ryanair both taking steps to upgrade their desktop and mobile platforms.

But is the same true in APAC? To find out, I searched for flights with several low cost airlines, including AirAsia, TigerAir, Jetstar and Firefly.

Read to find out what I discovered, or for more on this topic read Econsultancy’s State of Ecommerce in South-East Asia Report.

AirAsia

AirAsia offers a prominent search tool on its homepage, with a white and black colour scheme that makes it stand out from the rest of the features.

Users can either select their destination from a dropdown mega menu or by using the extremely-fast predictive search tool.

Once a departure city has been selected the tool automatically brings up the potential destination cities in a dropdown menu. This is extremely useful as it means you don’t waste time searching for routes that don’t exist.

Search results are neatly laid out with the outbound and return flights displayed on one page.  

Users can see how much it will be if they want to alter their flights to a different day, and AirAsia attempts to lure people in with the offer of a percentage off or a limited promotional price.

It’s far from perfect, however. The CTA is black and hidden under the fold, if you make any alterations to your flight dates a never-ending spinning wheel appears under the booking summary, and the ‘edit search’ button is a tiny text link discreetly placed at the top of the screen.

TigerAir

TigerAir’s search tool is also prominently placed on the homepage, but it appears above an annoying carousel which is very distracting from the task in-hand.

That aside, it uses the same handy predictive search function as AirAsia, so users need only enter in a few letters before the automation guides them through the process.

Each time you complete some information a dropdown menu appears within the next required field, so users are in no doubt as to the next stage.

The results page is quite cluttered, but users should be able to decipher the information with limited fuss.

As it’s a budget airline there are two options – ‘light’ and the more prominent ‘combo’, the latter of which includes a meal and reserved seating.

Though the overall design is okay, TigerAir suffers from similar UX issues to AirAsia, in that the CTA is uninspiring and it’s difficult to work out how to make big edits to the search requirements.

Scoot

Scoot’s cluttered homepage is a bit painful to look at, and it’s not helped by the colour scheme.

The search tool is easy to spot but the page is trying to do too many things, and I’m not sure there’s any value in having the Facebook feed in such a prominent position.

As Scoot offers a limited choice of destinations the cities immediately appear in a dropdown when you select the ‘From’ field in the search tool.

Unlike its competitors, Scoot doesn’t automate the search tool so users have to click into the next field once they’ve entered some information.

This isn’t an arduous task, but it’s notably worse than the UX offered by other airlines.

Scoot’s results page could also be greatly improved. Though users should be able to understand the information, the font is tiny and it offers flight options that are no longer available.

Why bother presenting options that have already sold out? 

Another problem is that users have to scroll far down the page to reach the ‘continue’ button, which is exactly the same colour and size as the ‘search again’ button.

Jetstar

Jetstar’s search tool offers predictive search and automated options, so users are guided through the process step-by-step.

I would suggest that the CTA be made a bit larger though, as it’s a bit small at present.

Jetstar also has an option to search by the exact date or to go for flexible dates to take advantage of the cheapest flights.

This is a really useful feature and makes a big difference to the search results page.

If you go for the latter option then you’re presented with a bar chart that shows price fluctuations over a 20-day period.

Users can then select their travel dates based purely on cost, which is perfect for a low cost airline.

Jetstar also offers the clearest summary of flight details, and a big, bright CTA.

This price, plus that price, equals the total. CONTINUE.

Nok Airlines

Nok’s website certainly looks like it belongs to a low cost airline.

Users are unable to type their destination into the search tool – instead they have to choose the cities from a long dropdown menu.

On my initial search the results page then returned zero results, but didn’t offer an explanation or suggest alternative dates.

After altering my the search terms I was finally offered some flight options, and in fairness the information was neatly presented and easy to understand.

Nok Airlines also has a prominent ‘New Search’ tool, which is something that the others on this list failed to offer.

Firefly

Firefly also commits the cardinal sin of placing a carousel behind its search tool. It’s very distracting and damages the user experience.

Thankfully the search tool uses predictive search and is also automated to guide users through the process.

Firefly also offered the option of searching by flexible dates, though this didn’t appear more than once so the airline is possibly A/B testing this feature.

If users select the flexible option they are shown prices for the entire month in a calendar view.

This is a useful tool, but Jetstar’s bar chart view is far easier to scan and select the cheapest option. But as it’s a new feature Firefly may well tweak the final design.

The other option is to search by specific dates, which returns a results page that’s actually more difficult to understand.

It’s not immediately clear what you can or can’t click on within the flight options, and the font is far too small.

In conclusion…

None of these sites is so terrible as to be unusable, but they would all benefit from a redesign to improve the user experience.

Common problems are tiny fonts, small or discreet CTAs, and confusing colour schemes. And I can’t understand why anyone would put a search tool on top of a carousel.

These are all issues that should be easy to fix and would have a positive impact on the UX.

Bonus points go to Firefly and Jetstar for allowing users to enter flexible search dates so they can take advantage of the cheapest price across a wide timeframe, which should be a no-brainer for low cost airlines.