Travel was an industry affected by the pandemic more than most. International restrictions prevented movement for business and leisure travellers alike, and every part of the industry was impacted as a result. We saw and experienced horror stories throughout the year including delays, cancellations, lost baggage and some pretty public fallouts… 

Unsurprisingly, many did not survive the harsh market. Airlines were reported to see $200bn COVID related losses in 2020-2021, with over 40 closing down in 2020 alone. However, those that survived demonstrated strong, time-insensitive propositions to customers, emphatic brand positioning, and – in some cases – rescue remediations from governments. 

As we move into a post-pandemic era, the one constant across all facets of travel – be it airlines, tour operators or tourism destination – is a growing appetite for ‘above and beyond’ travel. With travellers in 2022 stating they would rather take a dream holiday than buy a new car, businesses must now inspire customers to invest in the joy that was lacking during the height of the pandemic. 

UX criteria

Usually this blog showcases the good, the bad and the ugly, but in a period that has tested even the best of travel firms, we think it’s more accurate to evaluate the good, the bad and the even worse…

  • The good: I’d tell my friends all about it
  • The bad: It’s just OK, but has the potential to be so much better
  • The worst: If this firm went bust we wouldn’t miss it

Of course, we need to bring some objectivity to our assessments, so what criteria are we judging these by?

  • Ease of use
  • Personalisation 
  • Aesthetics

The Good: Lucky Trip

There are always opportunities for those able to spot them within adverse climates, and Lucky Trip certainly did so when presented with open borders and a customer base with itchy feet. The premise of the app is that by providing your desired travel information (budget, duration, guests, and departure city), the app will randomly generate a location within your parameters, providing inspiration for travellers keen to explore. 

Ease of use:

The app itself has very few pages, making for a straightforward experience. Once your location has been selected, all the information is captured within one scroll-able page. This also brings an element of excitement for the user, as pictures help to set the scene. The overall outcome feels like a bespoke itinerary from the most luxury travel operator. In addition, payment, passenger information and insurance are all easily managed within very few screens. Collating this in one place, rather than being led out the app to partner sites, makes for a seamless experience. 

Personalisation:

Excessive personalisation isn’t needed for this app. As users are required to input the bare minimum when it comes to data, the USP – making the destination choice for the user – remains the central pull. Lucky Trip is therefore perfect for those who don’t have the time to research every location on the Lonely Planet’s ‘2022 Best Places to Visit’ list, but still want a holistic holiday package. Whilst the app doesn’t have the abundance of personalisation offers that a bigger operator might have (i.e. hotel parameters, flights within certain time frames), the user is still able to select their chosen options with ease.   

Aesthetics:

The app is simple in the most genius ways – providing easy access for the consumer to input the necessary data. The colours on the pages are bright, but not overtly garish, exciting the user rather than creating sensory overload.

The inclusion of partner interfaces (Booking.com and SkySkanner) directly within app, in just a few swipes, makes the experience feel less of a chore and more intuitive. Swiping through these options like you’re finding a date on Tinder provides the same (if not a better) serotonin boost – not to mention that finding a highly rated, budget friendly hotel could otherwise take hours.

The Bad: Jet2

The cost of living crisis, coupled with the post-covid desire to travel, provides an incredible opportunity for budget operators such as Jet2 and EasyJet to shine. But, just because the flights are cheaper does not mean that these firms should overlook user experience (note that Lucky Trip is entirely free). Yet unfortunately this does appear to be the case when it comes to Jet2. 

Ease of use:

Anyone with experience of holiday-ing with Jet2 will no doubt have the dulcet tones of Jess Glynne from that infamous advert come to mind. But annoying jingles aside, the user experience leaves a lot to be desired. Yes, the app could be better, but let’s not forget that UX is not confined to the digital experience alone.

Jet2 have invested in airport technology and kit, allowing customers to self-check in their bags, for example. However, this experience only works if customers have checked in themselves online in advance. If that isn’t the case (no pun intended), then holidayers must join the queue… This increases pressure on airport staff to deal with customers, and is a wholly avoidable disruption to the customer journey. Jet2 should make this more clear in the pre-travel notifications, or take better advantage of the physical tech that already exists. And sadly, when you do need some customer support, the app is by no means the place to go. 

Personalisation:

As may be expected of a budget airline, the personalisation options are limited – seemingly deprioritised in favour of directing customers to never-ending adverts for holiday packages or ‘Black Friday deals.’ The bookings page within the app will indeed store previous bookings, but surely this should be the bare minimum from one of the UK’s largest operators.

Aesthetics: 

There’s no easy way of saying this… the Jet2 app is not nice to look at. As a customer, we know that we’re choosing the most economical way of getting where we need to go, but we don’t need to be reminded of it through a budget interface and cluttered design. The red branding is understandably utilised, but invokes a sense of underlying panic throughout the experience – not helped by the many pop-ups that disrupt the journey as the user makes their way through the various pages of the app. 

More effort has clearly been spent on pages like the flight search, which looks almost slick by comparison, but the main menu reveals an almost prototype-level fidelity interface that does not encourage a user to complete their transaction.

The Worst: British Airways

Despite market-leading offline services (for customers with a bronze and above airline status, that is), the online experience with British Airways (BA) falls short of expectations. Across its websites and mobile apps, the fluctuations in service do not necessarily reward customers for staying loyal, and at times increase the friction points along the journey.

BA

Ease of use:

Throughout the summer of 2022, BA was plagued with flight cancellations, and the process for consumers to rebook was not as efficient as would be expected. This, of course, added extra frustrations to an already fraught situation. Across the app and website, screens lag when updating important information (e.g., check-in status and seat reservations) and often contain information irrelevant to the traveller – i.e. previously cancelled flights. 

The mobile applications do not provide any increase in customer experience, as there are 2 different app options depending on your inclusion in the Executive Club. In an effort to make their loyalty scheme holders feel rewarded and distinct, BA have inadvertently added friction points. Consolidating to 1 application could satisfy the needs of all customer segments – a simple, yet effective solution.

Once inside the applications, directives to browser pages, which are labelled the same as pages within the app, beg the question – what benefit does the consumer get from using the app?  

Personalisation:

On the website, the difficult-to-navigate user account pages mean that the personalisation opportunities are not fully taken advantage of. The more obvious offers to book the same flights again are hard to find and the ‘favourite’ locations only take the user so far. 

Status from the Executive Club, however, does alter the look and feel of the browser and app experience, differing between blue, bronze, silver and gold accents. This is one of the redeeming features of the brand – where loyalty is rewarded with shiny status and colours to match. However, crucially it doesn’t offer any material changes to the experience.

Aesthetics:

Initially the website appears more consistent than the apps in terms of design, however the user is unfortunately presented with numerous different website interfaces when changing between screens. At its core, the pages on both the website and app(s) allow you to book tickets, but the uniformity of design detracts from the overall buying experience. There are many changes that could be made to improve the experience here, but consolidating the wide variety of user experiences and applications offered into one consistent experience would be a good start, BA.

Our departing thoughts

As the cost-of-living crisis continues, and travel becomes more of a luxury item in the short-term, firms need to remind themselves that users will expect an increase in service to match the increase in price. The days of 99p flights may be behind us (and that’s not a bad thing), but the cross-channel experiences that users face should still be as accessible and enjoyable as nabbing a bargain. Not all providers will be able to enhance every element of their offering to consumers, but incremental changes that put the customer at the forefront can make the luxuries we invest in feel all the better. 

Our final message to the travel industry? Your UX goes far beyond an app – an incredible opportunity exists for you to redefine how you marry the digital and physical worlds. One that will actually make your customers loyal.