Please Let Me Go – The Usability of Flight Booking Systems (Pt. 1)
Your name is Andrée Aumond and you wish to book a flight from Toronto, ON, Canada to Orlando, FL, USA for two weeks, leaving the 15th of July. You want to spend some time with your son’s family on the beach and relax. The only problem: You have to figure out these flight-booking sites first.
First you decide to head over to Westjet to see what they have to offer. You start to type in Toronto and the appropriate airport appears, so you select it. Suddenly, you receive a notice beneath the city name, it’s written in green so you decide not to be too alarmed by this development and read the message.
You wonder if the prices are better from those areas and try to press the green message to search those as well, but nothing happens. You decide that you have to manually type in the city yourself and so type in ‘Hamilton’ and select the airport. You type in Orlando as your destination and get another green message.
You carefully read the message and are not sure what to do about this so ignore it and move on. Next you enter your dates and use the calendar that pops up to select them. One adult is already selected so you click ‘Get Flights’. You see a loading page and after a moment you are presented with a new page.
You stare at the new page for a bit, it is asking you to enter the same exact information again! In frustration, you re-type the information, hit ‘Get flights’ and are… taken back to the same page.
It is at this point that you happen to notice the URL at the top of the screen.
You try not to get annoyed; after all, you’re going on vacation.
And so, deciding that searching Hamilton and Kitchener/Waterloo is too frustrating you fill in the form for the third time, this time with Toronto. After waiting, you are finally presented with flight results.
The results look rather complicated and busy so you spend a while here reading over all the text. You decide to go with the default selection as it is leaving at a good time and it is a direct flight. After scrolling down, you see another selection for the return flight, you choose a flight that has a good departure time and is direct. You scroll down to the bottom and press ‘Continue’.
Next you are presented with a summary of your selected flights, including a breakdown of prices. You read a box at the bottom about your fare type benefits that confuses you.
You’re not sure why paying baggage fees are listed as a benefit. That makes absolutely no sense. Unless… perhaps you didn’t select the lowest fare rate so you are getting better checked-bag prices. You want to go back and make sure that you actually got the lowest class fare type but there’s no back button and you can’t select the menu at the top. Worried that there might be a lower fare, you decide to start your search over again. After typing in all your information again, you verify that you did select the lowest fare type and still confused about these benefits, you decide to scroll down the page.
Now you are faced with an option to reserve a rental car. You pause and look at the options. You’re not sure if it’s a good idea to reserve the car now or go to a separate site to do this. In fact, you’re not even sure if you will need a rental car. You dig out the paper you have with the address of where you are going and as you are doing this, a message suddenly pops up.
You had no idea there was a session time limit! There was no warning anywhere. How long are you allowed to stay on pages before you have to start again? With a growl of growing frustration, you press ‘OK’ and are taken back to the main page again. You type in the now very familiar flight information and select your same flights again. When you get to the car rental page, you ignore the offer to reserve a car and press ‘Continue’.
The next page looks easier at first, but then you read the text at the top.
You read the message again and stop. Your name says Andrée Aumond on your passport. How are you supposed to type your name in as it appears on your ID if you can’t use é? You don’t see a help button of what to do in this case and wonder if you should call Westjet. Feeling the pressure from the unknown time limit on each page and not wanting to type your flight information in again for the sixth time, you decide to just use an ‘e’ instead and hope that you don’t have boarder crossing problems. You continue to fill in the form when you run into another problem.
On all your correspondence with companies, you prefer to be addressed as Dr., but there is no option here. Looking down at the form you wonder why the ‘Title’ and ‘Gender’ fields are even required at all. Why does either of those fields matter to the airline? Again, wary of the time limit, you quickly settle for Ms. and move onto filling out the other fields.
Clicking to the next page, you are presented with some optional seat selection. You debate getting a window seat so that you can watch the clouds, but $21 seems a bit pricey, so you move on.
Next, you get an offer to buy travel insurance, but you know that you already have some insurance so you select that you are not interested.
At this point you realize that you have gotten to the final step where you will have to fill in your credit card info to pay and looking at the final price you wonder if you could maybe get a better rate flying with Air Canada…
Stay tuned next time as Andrée Aumond braves the Air Canada flight booking system.