Blog

Problems of user experience from the point of view of airlines

16 marca 2019

In recent years planes became one of the most popular modes of transport (mostly for long-distance trips), replacing trains which are now expensive and more comfortable. However, the more popular it got, the more commercialized it became. No doubt that it is the easiest, the fastest and sometimes the cheapest choice, but it
is not a good habit for a company to rely on necessity of service without caring about its quality.

Let's imagine: your flight is at 5 AM, so you need to get up at 3 AM with possibility of being late. You managed to get through security check pretty smooth and now you need to find the right gate. But the numbers on the board are so small and you forgot your glasses. Hurry up! Ok, done. Now you have to wait in a queue. Then you wait for a bus and to enter the plane. Finally, you’re inside this metal can. Over two hundred people in a 40 meters long plane. A baby next to you is crying, so you can’t focus on work. You have a cold but you forgot to take tissues. You just want to land. Maybe a train next time?

The story above doesn’t pretend to be a nightmare. It could be worse. It is rather a standard process. It mostly happens to customers of budget airlines, which set the basics of standards. This article will focus particularly on low-level standards of budget lines.

It can’t be said that nothing was done in case of user experience in last years. Quite the opposite: online check-in and boarding passes in our phones were in some sense revolutionary.

It should be also mentioned that airlines, even the most luxurious, are not able to improve every aspect of user experience. Restrictions and limitations can be painful in designing all of four parts of the experience:

  • preparation (including: planning, booking and check-in)

  • airport experience (from entering the airport to boarding the plane)

  • in-flight experience

  • arrival experience (time just after landing)


Each chapter has its level of importance, limitations and potential improvements.

Preparations:

Importance: decisive - first contact between the product and the consumer, though when it comes to budget airlines, website experience is secondary towards prices.

Limitations: at the first sight this part seems to have no limitations. Its limitations come with the specific marketing strategy. Nowadays every single aspect of in-flight experience can be for sale. For example in Ryanair you can take hardly anything on board if you don’t buy it. I won't take under consideration whether it is good or bad because it lays in the philosophy of the company.

The problem to solve is how to develop a simple app with the whole modularity of the service. Let’s look at the booking service in Ryanair app. We have nine steps to follow (approximately twelve taps) including picking and then confirming a date, picking a fare (standard, plus, flexiplus), picking a size of the bag, seats and other services. This overwhelming quantity of options makes the whole process unintuitive. What could be done to solve this problem is simply letting customer to decide and pay for it later. In fact it’s possible to decide on most of those things before the check-in anyway.

Airport experience

Importance: very important - shapes the whole experience.

Limitations: limited by the construction of the airport and security rules.

As in the story above, queues are stressful especially for people who can be late, but there is nothing to do about it from the perspective of airlines. But there are still features to help out people in the rush with mobile apps. Real-time notifications about the state of the flight: delays, boarding, opening gates, and the most important:
number of the gate.

In-flight experience

Importance: important as far as it's up to the standards - otherwise can extremely change experiences.

Limitation: limited by the construction and cost of the plane. Probably the most wanted service nowadays is an in-flight wi-fi. Some of the airlines (e.g. Emirates Airlines and Qatar Airways) already offer this service. But for now the required technology is too expensive for budget airlines. Nevertheless, their standards, which are generally low, can be improved easily. For example offering free water (which should be a standard in every developed country in every possible service) but also earplugs or tissues. It is approximately 2$ more to a ticket.

Arrival experience is not important as far as the rest of the trip was fine. Otherwise this part can make customer’s experience worse. So features here should be subtle like giving some informations about the city where plane have just landed or an option to order a taxi.

Despite the huge limitations many things can be done in order to improve low standards. And the ideas mentioned here are cheap and easy to apply so it fits the needs of budget airlines perfectly. It can entirely change the reception of flying and make it an easy and natural way of traveling.