Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Worst Airline Website Award

We’ve suggested before that you shouldn’t base your air travel plans solely on an airline’s frequent flyer program (unless you’re a true frequent flyer). Only you can decide what’s important – price, schedules, comfort, etc. Likewise, you probably shouldn’t base your choices solely on your web experience. But in today’s travel world, if you have trouble even booking your flights, you might decide to turn elsewhere. Thus, our very personal opinions of airline websites (mostly U.S., but including a couple of international carriers).

There is no competition for bad website – USAir wins hands down. The site is slow, glitchy, pages only half load, and it’s overall just dreadful. They only show selective code-share flights, and especially bad is the frequent flyer section (Dividend Miles). Delta comes in a close second, with frequent time-outs to its pages loading and other flaws. (Let’s hope if Delta and Northwest do merge, they adopt Northwest’s website, and not Delta’s.) Even bmi’s confusing site is better. If you can’t do it well (as do Alaska, American, United, for example) why bother doing it? Just try to redeem miles on the USAir website – fat chance. This all seems especially egregious in these days of extra booking fees for using phone agents, for redeeming awards, and other fees-upon-fees.

Of the airlines we’ve flown over the past couple of years (including American, United, Alaska, Kenya, Air France/KLM, British Airways, Delta, easyJet, Southwest, Continental, Northwest, USAir, Qantas) – and airline websites we’ve used (a lot more than just the airlines we’ve flown) – even the marginal British Airways and Delta sites don’t come close to the flaws of USAir’s. Do we sound frustrated?

We spent much of our career in marketing, stressing customer service in all aspects of a business. We started at the ad agency (Leland Oliver Co.) where Jay Chiat got his start (and where his shadow still loomed large). Customer service is the same as marketing – the only difference is that marketing is directed at new customers and customer service is directed to existing customers. In our view, USAir falls down in both aspects.

“I think technology advertising will have to stop addressing how products are made and concentrate more on what a product will do for the consumer.” – Jay Chiat