Flights and Points | Finding an easy to use airline website an exercise in frustration, new survey reveals
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Finding an easy to use airline website an exercise in frustration, new survey reveals

Finding an easy to use airline website an exercise in frustration, new survey reveals

This may not come as a surprise to many of us, but the results of a recent survey concerning the design of US airline websites was just released – and it doesn’t look good for most carriers.

Is mediocrity okay when it comes to having an easy to use airline website?

Of the ten airlines (Virgin America, United, Spirit, Southwest, JetBlue, Hawaiian, Frontier, Delta, Alaska, and American) evaluated by UserTesting, only four achieved a score of ‘okay’.

Not a single carrier received a good or excellent rating when it came to web design, giving hard evidence to many disillusioned fliers to back up the contempt they feel towards them.

Southwest comes out on top, Virgin America second

Out of ten American carriers, Southwest had an easy to use airline website that consumers loved best

Southwest Airlines came out on top with a score of 86.9, aided greatly by its website’s ease of use. Among their best qualities: passengers are able to quickly get information about flights and assess their cost, baggage included.

Despite topping the list, though, passengers felt Southwest did not exceed their expectations – a key litmus test any carrier needed to pass in order to be deemed as having an easy to use airline website.

Hot on their heels was Virgin America, which was the runner up with a final score of 81.7. Given the degree the company emphasizes customer service, this showing was hardly surprising, but given the high expectations of Sir Richard Branson, perhaps it is to him – for all the wrong reasons.

From mediocrity to the Hall of Shame

From there, things deteriorated rapidly, with Hawaiian, Alaska, and Jetblue scoring 75.1, 73.9, and 71.9 respectively.

Delta, American, and United, each of them well-known legacy carriers, languished in the 60s, as did Frontier, who scored a second-worst 60.8.

Spirit brought up the rear with an abysmal score of 36.4, which including a ghastly ranking of 0.5 for the ‘ease’ (or lack thereof) of calculating the final cost of a flight (contrast this with Southwest, who scored 71.4 on this measure).

How was this study carried out?

The survey meant to figure out if any American carrier had an easy to use airline website was meticulously put together by a team of intelligent professionals

The report was put together by surveying 1,000 air travelers on their experiences with booking a flight online through the ten airlines mentioned above.

One hundred participants were recruited per airline, with each being asked to complete a series of tasks the average consumer would commonly perform when they search for flight information.

After completing these tasks, they were then asked questions regarding their experiences. From these, UserTesting was able to determine how easy it was to access information and to cost out flights, whether the sites were visually pleasing, whether the sites engendered feelings of trust, and whether the overall experience exceeded expectations and created delight.

Making things better: key to better airline web design

Considering the scores mentioned above, the next question becomes this: how can any one of the above-mentioned airlines create an easy to use airline website that meets the expectations of their customers?

At minimum:

  • A clean design that makes it easy to notice a compelling call-to-action should be the top priority, as this will make it easier for a casual site visitor to book a flight.
  • The brand of an airline should be clear within ten seconds of a prospect’s arrival on an airline’s landing page.
  • All crucial information should be easy to find and should be within a couple clicks


Of course, there’s more to designing an easy to use airline website than the above, but with concerted effort, American consumers will have an easier time finding info and booking flights, which is likely to translate into better financial results for the airline industry.

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