This post is part of my series on Flight Search. I start by stating my understanding of the user needs, then derive the features based on the user needs, deconstruct the different elements of flight search on sites like Kayak, Orbitz, Hipmunk etc, and finally present my own design for a flight search product.
Based on user needs, a good flight search site should take into consideration the following features in the design of the results page:
- Intuitive Display of Flight Options
- Separate Departure and Return flight results (Note: tabs vs scroll down)
- Hiding redundant/useless flight options
- Show all relevant flights in one page.
- Thin rows for each flight option showing only relevant information. (Note: Southwest Vs Hipmunk)
- Total Price Display vs Individual leg?
- Summary View for Chosen Dates
- Best price for nonstop, one-stop, two-stop
- Grid view of airline, stops & price within chosen filters.
- +/- 3 day prices at a quick glance
- Intuitive Filtering
- Time filtering
- Price filtering
- Airline filtering
- Sorting Options
- Departure Time
- Arrival Time
- Calendar price view for identifying good dates to travel
- Map view for displaying flexible destination results
In this post I’m going to examine the results pages of various sites to identify the different solutions that they arrived at and explain my reasons for liking/disliking them.
Intuitive Display of results
Separating Departing and Return Flight Options
As I explained in the previous post, on design choices that lead to a terrible experience, Orbitz, Kayak, and Hotwire combine the departing and return flights into a single trip. This makes it complicated for the user to sift through the results, filter the choices and to make a decision. I am firm believer in separating the flights into individual legs and displaying the choices for each leg separately. Southwest airlines, United Airlines, American Airlines, Virgin show the departing and return flights separately to simplify the user experience. Among the travel sites Travelocity, Expedia and Priceline display the departing and return flights separately.
Most of these sites first display the departing flight options and then the return flight options. United and soouthwest display the two flight options simultaneously. Southwest displays the return flights below the departing flights, while United displays the departing and return flights in two columns next to each other.
These two options might not be feasible with an aggregator site as not all return flights are available with all return flights. I would experiment with dynamically creating the return flight list in the same page based on the departing flight chosen.
Hiding bad flight options
Bad flights Hidden
Bad Flights revealed
Displaying all relevant flights in one page
Most sites display a lot of information that is not relevant for the first level of filtering in the results page. Since they take a lot of vertical space to display each flight, the user can see only a few flights without scrolling down. For example in the image below, Orbitz displays 2 flights in the entire page before the user has to scroll the page. Other sites like Travelocity and expedia display results very similarly.
Kayak does a better job event though it shows departing & return flights together as trip. Southwest (just screwed up their display by adding points etc), American, and Hipmunk do a tremendous job of displaying only the relevant information.
+/-3 Day Prices
Grid Based Filtering for # of stops and airlines
Time Filtering by Searching Again
Individual Flight Information
Complete Trip Information
Back to Flight Search Series.