EasyJet VS Ryanair: which airline website prevails in usability? (Part 1 of 3)

EasyJet and Ryanair are competing budget airlines in the European and UK market. Both airlines have similar pricing and service; however the websites operate completely differently. Which airline has the better website?

Whilst living in London for the past two years I have been a frequent visitor to both websites. I would say that I am one example of EasyJet and Ryanair’s target audience groups. I am a frequent traveller (flying 1-3 times a month) and I am also interested in travelling on the cheap, so I mostly consider budget airlines when booking my flights.

When purchasing flight tickets, I consider:

  • Prices
  • Dates of flights
  • Flight times
  • Which airport the flight is leaving from

The last point is especially interesting considering London has multiple airports (compared to Sydney whom only has one major airport). The airport also plays a part in the decision process, as you factor in:

  • How difficult it is to get to the airport (multiple airports in London mean that people have more options)
  • Costs associated to get to the airport (especially relevant since many people rely on public transport in London)

As a consumer, I want to see all of this information on a website as easily as possible to make the best decision and ultimately purchase. So, how does this translate in terms of the EasyJet and Ryanair website?

Over the next few posts in the coming weeks I will analyse usability and how each website deals with performing the following tasks:

  • Searching for flights
  • Comparing flights/costs
  • Purchasing a ticket (conversion funnel)

Fixed variables and scope for analysis

For this study I have chosen Berlin as the destination, with the reason being it is quite a well visited and popular destination in Europe. The dates chosen are Friday 16th August – Sunday 18th August 2013. The August period is summer in London/Berlin so it will be the peak travel period. I have also chosen to leave on Friday and to return to London on Sunday as I often took weekend trips and left on a Friday night after work. In my experience of travelling over the last two years, Friday nights and Saturday mornings are very busy periods at the airports.

Please note that this analysis is not an all inclusive study of usability on both websites (it does not factor in design and programming functionality), but rather focuses solely on the main tasks of a user and how easy it is to perform the tasks on both EasyJet and Ryanair websites.

Searching for flights

EasyJet flight search form on the homepage

EasyJet flight search form on the homepage

EasyJet has a simple to use interface on the homepage. I like that the search option allows me to search for all airports in London. This is especially useful for users that are flexible with airport location and would rather focus on price/timings of flights. It also allows users to search for specific airports and tailors its search functionality to both searching habits. After hitting the ‘Show Flights’ button, I am taken to the flight selection page. This is an easy and quick process.

Ryanair flight search form on the homepage

Ryanair’s flight search interface on the homepage looks simple enough, however looks can be deceiving and this is a prime example. I search for London and am shown three individual airports in the auto-complete. I choose the first option, London Gatwick, as this airport is the most convenient to get to from my work on a Friday afternoon. However, when I search for Berlin, no auto-complete options are shown. I chose the dates and click ‘Book Now’ anyway hoping that some results return.

I then get a popup stating that I have not chosen my destination. As a user I am a bit stumped. I have most certainly chosen a destination and I find it frustrating that it is telling me otherwise. After a short while I realise that I have chosen the wrong airport and that I will need to select another London airport that actually flies to Berlin.

Ryanair popup that I have not chosen destination

This is where Ryanair’s search functionality fails. It assumes that customers know which airports are connected to certain destinations. In the end I had to go through each London airport in the search function to see if the Berlin destination would show up on auto-complete. This has tested my patience and as a user, I could have easily given up booking with Ryanair based on this inconvenience alone. After finally finding that London Stanstead connects to Berlin, I click ‘Book Now’ and I am then taken to a security check page where I have to fill in a CAPTCHA form.

CAPTCHA form on Ryanair website

I can understand that Ryanair does not want to be spammed by bots, but as a user I just see this as another hindrance and hurdle I have to jump over to get to the flight selection page. This whole process has taken me about 5-10 minutes, compared to the 1 minute it took on the EasyJet website.

Winner of the ‘Searching for Flights’ round 1

There is definitely a clear winner here. EasyJet’s easy selection and one-click process out shadows Ryanair’s difficult to use interface. In the future it would be great to see Ryanair adopt a ‘search all’ functionality for all London airports and also to remove the CAPTCHA form as it is an unnecessary additional step in the booking process. I would also consider removing the tickbox for the terms and conditions on the Ryanair search form.

In the next series, I will analyse the ease in which I can compare flights and costs and also assess the conversion funnel on both EasyJet and Ryanair websites. If you have come across a website that oozes great or poor usability, please leave a comment!

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