Booking Flights Direct Doesn’t Delight Passengers, Study Finds

by Richard D'Ambrosio
Booking Flights Direct Doesn’t Delight Passengers, Study Finds


With nearly two out of three airline bookings made via desktop websites, the airlines aren’t doing a very good job making consumers happy.

According to San Francisco-based UserTesting, air carrier websites scored lowest in “delighting” their customers, “the lowest-scoring, most elusive factor… given that travelers expected straightforward information about flights, arrival times, and pricing – expectations that went unfulfilled.”

Seven out of ten airlines scored lower in “Delight” than all other attributes, with the cost of checking bags especially displeasing consumers, UserTesting reported.

“While some airlines lacked transparency and consistency around baggage fees, others had baggage fees hidden away on a separate page, which required travelers to navigate away from their flight search results page and even lose their search results,” it said.

Other airlines just weren’t clear with what a customer would get with a booking—confusing copy such as “extra bag,” led to questions over “whether this indicated a first checked bag (in addition to a carry-on) or a second checked bag.” Other airlines simply wouldn’t reveal how much a checked bag cost until many steps into the booking process.

"Airlines are not traditionally known for delivering delightful customer experiences," said Brian Smith, vice president of marketing at UserTesting. "It's a tall order to connect every customer touchpoint, but repeated roadblocks on any channel can quickly diminish customer loyalty.”

Earlier this year, UserTesting asked 1,000 travelers to perform a series of tasks on the websites of the top 10 airlines in the United States: Alaska, American, Delta, Frontier, Hawaiian, JetBlue, Southwest, Spirit, United, and Virgin America. Travelers evaluated the websites based on ease of use, credibility and aesthetics.

Most airlines struggled in the ease of use category because of the difficulty they experienced getting information.

“While travelers generally found it easy to simply find a flight, the additional tasks of finding the cost including baggage fees, and looking up arriving flights, proved more difficult,” the report said.

Southwest Airlines received the highest overall ratings, mostly due to the speed with which travelers could locate flight information. But even as the top performer in the study, Southwest “did not overwhelmingly exceed customers’ expectations,” according to UserTesting in the study.

Credibility was the highest-scoring factor in the report, UserTesting said, due to most airlines' “well-established brand reputation.”  Aesthetics impacted credibility as well.

“For Virgin America and Alaska, two airlines that scored high in credibility, travelers remarked that the clean, professional look of the websites made them confident.”

UserTesting’s benchmarking study ran from June 29, 2017 to July 12, 2017.

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