Monday, 22 July 2002
Last week I failed to buy a simple return ticket New York. High season has started, flights are filled up, but that was not the only problem.
  1. It is a real struggle to buy a ticket on the internet. The sites of the various airlines resemble glossy promotion brochures rather than working webshops.
  2. Most airlines force you to struggle through several screens, asking all sorts of questions, preferably with incomprehensible codes and unfriendly date formats.
  3. Then, to add insult to injury, you are rewarded with an error message. The flight is not operating on the requested day or is sold-out. Grmbl, what a e-commerce disaster shop. At best the result is an unclear list of flights, without price and availability indication. The success of low budget carriers such as ( does not seem to have any impact yet.
  4. I give up hope after struggling with about 3 airline sites. General websites with special offers are much better but still provide no solace. I hurry to my trusted brick-and-mortar travel agency. There I see some more screens that are just as bad: nice graphics, but the usability is terrible.
So, my dear ladies and gentlemen of the travel industry: Here is an alternative design that
will sell tickets online.

Screen 1: Destination

The first screen is minimal. It offers just one entry field: the destination. And what a surprise: it is even filled with a value too
  • the last destination the customer requested during a previous visit,
  • or a best guess for the first visit, a popular destination.
    This is probably not the desired destination, but at least it provides a clear example.
SUMit Ticket Shop
What is your destination?
Atlanta Chicago Honolulu John F. Kennedy Los Angeles Memphis Newark New York Orlando Panama San Jose San Francisco Amsterdam Albufeira Antwerpen Barcelona Berlin Billund Birmingham Brussel Copenhagen Dublin Frankfurt Geneve Heathrow Lisboa London Maastricht Nice Oporto Praha Rome Rotterdam Southampton Stockholm Wien Zürich Abu Dhabi Bangkok Colombo Denpasar Dubai George Town Guilin Ipoh Jakarta Hong Kong Ho Chi Min City Kunming Kuala Lumpur Maleh Manilla Medan Singapore
    Auckland Cairns Melbourne Perth Sydney Wellington
Below the entry box are the 6 continents with the most popular destinations. A click on a destination also flows to the second screen.

Screen 2: Flights

The second screen shows for the destination selected
  • A list of flights, of all airlines, cheapest option first. The price shows clearly, at the start of each line.
  • Above that are a number of search criteria, all filled with a value of a previous visit or an plausible default value. The requested departure dates are displayed as weeks rather than days.
  • The computer will do all the hard work and will only show the days with capacity. Flights that are full are not displayed. The flight numbers are just as irrelevant as train numbers, not a selling criteria, so they are not displayed.
Outward journey   Return
From RTM · BRU    
To JFK · EWR · PHL    
Price Departure AMS Airline Arrival NYC   Departure Return trip
Mo Tu We Th Fr Sa Su Mo Tu We Th Fr Sa Su
€ 331,- 22     25 26 27   17:00 AF 20:50 29 30 31 1 2 3  
€ 481,- 22 23   25   27 28 10:30 LH 15:55 29   31 1 2 3  
€ 481,-       25 26 27 28 15:00 LH 19:25   30 31   2 3 4
€ 670,- 22 23   25 26     10:10 EI 14:30 29   31       4

Screen 3, flight details and order form

A click on a departure date brings up a third screen, with
  • all flight details,
  • a possibility to select a return flight,
  • and a button to buy the ticket online.

Design for sale

This design is still for sale. Any travel organisation that is seriously interested may contact me for usability advice and a solid design.

If need be I'll help out in the technical design for a Java or even a TPF solution.

Till next week,