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Mobile apps in tourism: low-cost airlines

Long gone are the times when buying a flight ticket was not only very expensive, but also time-consuming. You had to go to the airport or the company office. Nowadays is everything much simpler. Flight tickets are more affordable for everyone. In the last decade there has been a boom in low-cost travelling. There are many blogs, where the bloggers share their best tips on buying the cheapest flight tickets, getting discounts for accommodation and so on. With this trend people travel much more often. Some people don’t even have the itinerary completed when hitting the road. They simply travel somewhere and decide where to go next after a few days. Under these circumstances most of the flight bookings are made via mobile apps, as it very convenient to just pick the phone, open an app and find the best deal for your next journey.

Personally speaking, I have more than 6 apps from various airlines downloaded in my phone. The thing with low-cost airlines is that they do not let you check-in for the flight more than a few hours in advance. Check-in at the airport is sometimes even more expensive than the flight ticket itself. Most of the apps are offering to check-in online quite easily so that the passenger can do it anywhere without having to look for a laptop or PC. After check-in via an app you have the boarding pass right in your phone and you don’t have to print it.

Are these apps user friendly? Do they work properly to provide the customers the information and help that they are looking for?

Let’s have a look at some of the biggest low-cost airlines in Europe and their mobile apps?

We will start with the company EasyJet.

The app has been awarded as “Best Mobile Booking Solution” by the Mobile Travel and Tourism Awards in 2014. In the same year EasyJet was the first one to introduce a feature, which allows the user to take a photo of their passport, which is especially useful for filling up information for check-in, as the app can read the info from the scan.  

Apart from basic functions as the possibility of check-in, there is a section called travel essentials, where the user can find hotels, car for hire and others. All of these are only links to other websites, which pop up in a new window in browser. Opening in a browser can be a little confusing, but at least the websites are optimised for mobile use.

The app offers a lot of information, which is sometimes hard to find, as the buttons leading there are all over the home screen and the user has to move some of the icons to see the others.

While booking a flight to a city, where more flights are available, the app finds all of them, but it is quite hard to stay oriented in all the information squashed in such a small window.

Below you can see EasyJet’s offer for flights from Prague to London. EasyJet operates on three airports in London, bud as you scroll down to the third, it is very likely you will forget what the first offers included.

Over all the app contains everything a customer might need for their travels, although there are little issues in the UX that could be fixed, such as eliminating some buttons on the home screen.

Next company is Ryanair and their app. This Irish based company has, as far as I am concerned, become one of the best known among low-cost travellers.

This app offers, just like the app from EasyJet, more than only buying flight tickets. The first impression is great, as everything you need is located on one page. On the other hand, I have been using the Ryanair app for quite a long time and a few months ago I switched my phone to German language, so the app switched to German as well. The problem is that after switching the phone back to English, the app remained in German and I am unable to find the app settings (or did they forget to put it there?). Either way, my app is now in German, which is sometimes annoying for me as a user.

The search window for flights is offering you to get the information about your current location, so if you agree and turn the geolocation on, the original destination is the one, where you currently are. If the access to current location is denied, you can choose whatever place you want. Choosing the final destination looks the same. The only problem there is that the app offers you also destinations, where Ryanair doesn’t fly directly, so there are many options, which makes it a little confusing. They clearly need to solve the Travelling Salesman Problem better. Let’s face it…do we use low cost airlines for flights with change of flights? I don’t think so, low-cost airlines are more for quick, direct journeys.

While testing the app, I have chosen a destination with one stop. It took ages for the app to load the dates when the desired flights are available.  There are more complex apps searching for flights from dozens of airlines, which are faster.

I tried to search for the flight from Prague to Athens. The calendar let me choose the date 31st May for the flight back. A few other dates were unavailable in the calendar, which is fine. As a result, I was very surprised, when there were no flights for that day….so why could I choose it?

The purchase itself is without any greater issues. Users who sign up can save their personal information for check-in, so there is no need to fill up all the forms more than once.

The other features of the app offer hiring a car or booking a hotel room. Just like EasyJet, Ryanair app redirects you to a website (which at least opens in the app, not in a browser). These websites are optimised for mobile use, so it not the worst user experience ever, even though there is always space to make things better.

The last app, which will be reviewed in this article is Flybe. Their main office is in Exeter, UK. Their planes are a bit old fashioned. When downloading the app from GooglePlay, I noticed the reviews. The app has only 1,9 stars out of 5, so I was curious to find out what went wrong there. When I opened the app, I was welcomed by a window telling me about transitioning to a new system (take a look at the screenshot).

If you do not have an account yet, there is no way to connect through Gmail or Facebook account. In fact, if you want to register, you will be redirected to a webpage in your browser, which is not even mobile friendly. The registration itself is long. I mean, looong. I was attempting to buy a ticket from Vienna to Dublin (I have no idea if they have a direct flight, but the app offered this route, so why not). In the calendar, which showed afterwards I could not tap on a different date than today’s. If there are no flights, the users shouldn’t be able to choose this combination of destinations. My second search was a flight from Prague to London, which was ok and I could choose whatever date I wanted.

A great feature would be a calendar showing prices for various dates. The app actually offers it. Unfortunately, the calendar is not at all optimised for mobile phones.

Another fun fact is that unlike other low-cost airlines, Flybe doesn’t offer a free hand luggage. If you are not aware of this fact, you will not see in the app, so it might be a little surprise after you receive the boarding pass.

It is the only app in this review offering only flights. There is no chance to book a hotel or hire a car via the app. I would not mind so much, but as their competition has included these options, it might cost Flybe some customers.

To sum things up, in the EasyJet app there are only minor issues in the user interface, but it runs smoothly. Ryanair’s biggest issue is the language setting. If it is possible to switch back to English, I should be able to find it right away, which did not happen. On contrary, the basic functions as check-in and payments can be made without any difficulties.

The worst app is by far Flybe. As you can see from the screenshots above, the user experience in very confusing and not at all suitable for mobile phones.

In case you need your own mobile app, feel free to contact our experts in Pixelfield.

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