From The Ergoweb® Learning Center

Study: Booking Travel Online is No Vacation

During the northern Deep Freeze, thoughts turn to sun, waves and white sand. A new survey suggests some people could decide to vacation at home soon after logging on to a travel agency or airline website.

The Flight Online Study by London-based Webcredible, a company that offers a range of usability and accessibility design services, looked at the flight search and booking process on 20 of the top travel agent and airline websites.

The study found that most websites scored reasonably well on the first step of the booking process.  The majority had a flight search box or link on the homepage. They were less successful with misspellings of the city or airport names, and exotic place names had a particular potential for causing problems. Webcredible noted that users should be prompted or given alternatives when this happens. 

The study also found that users confront an obstacle course when they want to compare their options across several travel sites. It showed that searches are not saved across sessions, and most websites failed to offer users the option of saving their flights and booking them later.

And contact numbers were not displayed consistently throughout the booking process, according to the research. Anyone with questions or needing reassurance before booking online could be out of luck. The 20 sites scored an average of less then two out of five for making contact details easy to find. Users who prefer to gather all the details online, then book over the phone, could find this flaw particularly irksome.

They are also likely to be irritated when sites like Travelocity’s spend a minute or so searching for available flights before giving users an error message.

The study found that travel agents’ websites were generally better than airline sites. Of the agencies, Opodo scored highest at 67 percent. Expedia and Travelocity tied at 53 percent.  Monarch was worst at 38 percent. British Airways scored highest among the airlines. At 67 percent, scored 10 more points than Virgin Atlantic and 27 points more than Ryanair.

The website flaws amount to more aggravations for travelers, who face the potential of flight delays and lost luggage. The study’s message to travel agents and airlines is that their websites could be losing them business.