Web Profits BlogCase StudiesVirgin vs Jetstar – which airline has the better online booking system?

Virgin vs Jetstar – which airline has the better online booking system?

Case Studies -

Domestic flights in Australia are big business, with Jetstar generating $3.46B in revenue and Virgin Australia Domestic generating $3.31B in revenue in the 2015 financial year.

With 58 million passengers carried domestically in the last 12 months, the low-price airlines need to be super efficient with everything they do to ensure they stay profitable while offering the lowest fares in the market.

That means every little thing they can do to reduce friction and make it easy for a customer to book and check-in to their flight will make a difference to their bottom line.

Making the online booking process as easy and frictionless as possible is one of those ways.

Not only does an increase in online bookings reduce the number of calls received by a call centre (which reduces the staff costs required to staff the call centre), it can also increase the number of people who book with the airline because of its ease of booking. Not to mention the revenue maximisation of strategically placed upsells in the booking process.

So in this review we’re looking at the two biggest players in the low-price airline war – Virgin Australia and Jetstar – to see which airline has the better online booking system.

For the purposes of this review, I am going to book a flight from Sydney to Melbourne, and I’ll be reviewing the following phases in the online booking process:

  • Which airline makes it easiest to find flight details?
  • Which airline has the best flight details page?
  • Which airline has the best online checkout?

I’ll also be breaking it up into desktop and mobile, to see how each airline adjusts to the fast growing mobile consumer market.

So, let’s get into it…

Which airline makes it easiest to find flight details?

The first step in the process is finding flight times and prices. Let’s take a look at which airline makes this process the easiest.

Virgin Australia (desktop)

When you land on the Virgin Australia website the booking widget is the main element visible on the site…

The main call-to-action ‘Find Flights’ is red, contrasting well against the rest of the colours on the page.

Your location is usually automatically selected from your computer’s location. And when you click on the ‘Origin’ field you can choose one of the ‘Popular Routes’…

In this case, because I am travelling from Sydney to Melbourne, I can just choose that route and save a few clicks (which is great).

It then automatically opens up the date selection field, where you can choose the date you’re leaving and the date you’re returning…

When you’ve chosen your destination and travel dates, you choose the rest of your options and then click ‘Find Flights’…

When you click ‘Find Flights’ a loading screen is displayed and then the flight details are presented on the next page.

Now let’s take a look at Jetstar…

Jetstar (desktop)

When you land on the Jetstar home page, your location is automatically selected…

I really like how they use the text ‘from Sydney’ instead of just ‘Sydney’ so it’s obvious that this is the origin.

I also like how they use the wording ‘to where?’ because that’s how you would say it if you were speaking with someone.

When you click the ‘to where?’ field, you see the following options…

I like how it’s all in alphabetical order, which means it’s easy to find what you’re looking for. But it’s not as good as Virgin Australia’s booking widget that displays popular routes in the menu options.

After you select your destination, you’re taken to a full screen calendar where you can select your departure date…

And then the return date…

I especially like this format of date selection as it’s super easy to use, it’s really clear what you need to do next, and it moves seamlessly between the different fields.

From there you choose ‘who’s going?’, and you have the plus and minus options to adjust the numbers without having to use a dropdown menu, which can add extra friction to the process.

From there, a summary of your flight details is shown and you can click on ‘Find Flights’ to get flight details…

The verdict (desktop)

Jetstar offered a far superior experience to find flights. They used much friendlier wording, used full page fields, and made the entire process far more intuitive for a traveller to choose their destination and travel dates.

The only thing that Virgin Australia did better was offer the ‘Popular Routes’ option in their location menu. Aside from that, Jetstar did everything else better.

Takeaways

Choose wording you would use if you were speaking with them (eg ‘Who’s going?’)

If you’re using a multi-step form, try to make it as easy as possible for visitors to know what they have to do next by removing all distractions from the page, making it really clear what you want them to do next, and making it large enough so that it’s really easy to make a selection.

And if there is a common selection of options that most people use (eg Sydney to Melbourne flight route), include them as a shortcut so they can move through your form faster.

Now let’s take a look at the mobile version of the site.

Virgin Australia (mobile)

When you first land on the Virgin Australia mobile site you’re presented with this popup…

Virgin Australia uses a lot of email marketing around flight specials, so I’m assuming this is adding value to their overall metrics. They also make it easy to close out with an ‘x’ in the top right and red, underlined text that says ‘No thanks, close this window’.

Here’s the actual home page…

It’s not as easy to see where to start the process of finding flight details on the mobile home page. The ‘Book’ menu item is there, but it’s not obvious on the page, and it has the same weight on the page as ‘Manage’ and ‘Check-In’.

If revenue generation is the main focus of this site, the ‘Book’ option should be a lot more obvious, either by using a different colour, featuring it in the banner, or making it a major feature on the home page.

When you click ‘Book’, you’re taken to this page…

It’s not difficult to see what you need to select, but it’s also not as easy as their desktop site.

For example, they don’t automatically show your location, even though it’s a lot easier to get that information from a smartphone user.

When you click the ‘Origin’ field to select where you’re flying from, it just shows you everything in alphabetical order, with a search field…

What happened to the ‘Popular Routes’ option? That was really helpful and now they’ve removed it. And they’re not using my location to suggest the location to me.

Not very smooth.

The same thing happens for the ‘Destination’ field…

When you’ve chosen your Origin and Destination, the field closes and you need to choose the flight dates…

When you click on the date field, a calendar is presented to select your Departure Date…

Where you can click on dates to select your travel dates…

When the dates have been selected, the calendar closes and you need to select how many people are travelling…

And then scroll down and click ‘Find Flights’…

While it’s really the only option on the page, I would have preferred the ‘Find Flights’ button being red so that it’s really obvious what you needed to click.

When you click ‘Find Flights’ you’re presented with flight details.

Now let’s take a look at Jetstar…

Jetstar (mobile)

Here’s Jetstar’s mobile home page…

I really like this home page for a couple of reasons…

Firstly, they suggest you install / open their mobile app, for a faster and more streamlined experience, which is great.

And secondly, the menu is really clear with the ‘Book Flights’ menu item front and centre so you can clearly see it when you land there. Jetstar could make it even more obvious by making the ‘Book Flights’ option standout even more.

When you click on ‘Book Flights’ you’re taken to this page…

This page is a lot more user friendly that the Virgin Australia one because the fields are much more obvious, the wording is a lot easier to understand, the menu items are much larger making it easier to select for people with larger fingers, and the call-to-action is super obvious.

When you click on ‘Choose Origin’ (again, I’m not sure why they just haven’t automatically chosen Sydney because of my location) you are presented with this page…

This page has the same issue as the Virgin Australia one… it doesn’t include the most popular locations at the top, I need to scroll or search to find my location, and it doesn’t suggest anything based on my location.

The date selector is similar to the Virgin Australia one…

And when you click ‘Done’, you can review your flight details and then click ‘Search’ to find flights.

The verdict (mobile)

Jetstar’s mobile site provided a better experience because it was a lot clearer what you needed to do to get flight details, the fields were a lot easier to select, and the wording was much friendlier. I also liked that they suggested you install / open their mobile app for an improved user experience.

Saying that, when you clicked on any of the fields (ie destination and dates) the experience was pretty much the same between Jetstar and Virgin Australia, so there is a lot that Jetstar can do to improve this part of the experience.

Takeaways

Make sure you focus your mobile home page on the most important thing you want your customers to do.

If you have a smartphone app, include the option to download the app when they land on your mobile site.

Make form fields as large as possible to make it easy for users to select the field.

And use contrasting colours and clear wording to make it easy for your visitors to understand what they need to do next.

Now let’s take a look at how easy it is to find a flight that suits…

Which airline has the better flight details page?

So we’ve just reviewed which airline makes it easiest to find flight details, and Jetstar won that challenge.

Now let’s see which airline has the best flight details page.

Virgin Australia (desktop)

Here’s the page you see after you’ve chosen your destination and travel dates…

I really like how you can see the lowest price for days before and after the day you’re flying, at the top of the page – it’s a great way to quickly judge whether you should change your travel dates to save some money on flights.

Flights are ordered by departure time, which is likely the most common way travellers look for flights…

But you can also sort by additional options, including price…

There are callouts for flights that are ‘Reduced’, which really talks to the bargain hunters of the world (and I don’t know too many people who don’t want to save money on flights)…

When you scroll your mouse over the flight you want to book, the tile changes to a call-to-action that says ‘Choose Fare’…

And then when you click it you’re given the option to upgrade to a ‘Flexi’ fare…

All really intuitive so far.

From there you can click on the price to ‘select the fare’…

A summary of your selection is displayed…

And then you follow the same process again to book your returning flight…

From there you’re presented with a summary of your flight details, with the option to ‘book now and pay later’, which will be offered on the following page…

A summary of the booking is also on the right hand side of the page…

When you’re done you click ‘continue’ and your flight selection is done…

Now let’s take a look at Jetstar…

Jetstar (desktop)

Here’s the page you see after selecting your destination and travel dates…

I love how Jetstar uses scarcity to drive action on their site. It’s quite intimidating thinking that there are another 150 people looking at this same route. And even though there are a lot of flights on this day, and it’s not clear whether they are looking at that route for today or in general, it works.

Booking.com uses a similar scarcity tactic for hotels and destinations you’re looking at and I know it makes me want to secure my spot before somebody else does.

Jetstar has the same type of functionality as Virgin Australia, where they show you the lowest price for the days before and after the day you’ve selected…

Jetstar’s flights are also sorted by departure time but they also include the number of seats left on a flight if there are not many left, which adds even more scarcity to your decision…

When you choose a flight, you’re presented with the following upgrade options…

Jetstar uses a classic selection comparison design to make you upgrade to the second option (note: how this usually works is that you have 3 options, with the third option being really expensive and the second option looking like a bargain… plus the design pushes the second option to be selected by the user – it’s good stuff).

You follow the same process to book your return flight…

And you’re presented with a Booking Summary at the end…

When you’re done you click ‘Continue’ and your flight selection is done.

The verdict (desktop)

So who has the better flight details page?

Well, both airlines use pretty much the same layout and design. The big difference is the scarcity elements that Jetstar integrates into this page, which would drive a lot more bookings than if they didn’t have it.

For that reason, my verdict is that the Jetstar flight details page is a better page.

Takeaways

If you have products that run out often, integrate scarcity widgets like the Jetstar one letting people know how many other people are looking at the same product they are looking at.

Also include number of items left in stock if there are less than 5 or 10 (you probably want to test this out).

And if items are reduced, make sure to include callouts so customers can see which products are on special, because consumers always love a bargain.

Virgin Australia (mobile)

Now let’s take a look at how easy it is to find flights on the Virgin Australia mobile site.

Here’s the page you’re taken to after you’ve chosen your destination and travel dates…

It’s sorted by departure time but there isn’t an option to change how it’s sorted.

When you click on a flight, you’re presented with different pricing options for the flight…

They use the ‘reduced’ callout on the page but only after you’ve selected a flight. It would be a lot better if they had this as a callout before you clicked on the flight details.

When you select the flight you want, a red checkmark is displayed…

You then need to scroll down the page and click ‘Next Flight’…

And then follow the same process again to choose the returning flight…

When you’re done you click ‘continue’ and your flight selection process is done.

Now let’s take a look at Jetstar…

Jetstar (mobile)

Here’s the page you’re taken to after you select your destination and travel dates…

Notice how they show you how many steps are in the process, at the top of the page?

I also like how they use the wording ‘Hot fare’ directly on this page, although they could make this standout more by using a different text colour.

When you select a flight, the text changes to orange and a green check mark is displayed…

And they offer the upgrade option as well (but it’s not the same type of design as on desktop)…

When you decide which flight you want you make your selection and then get a summary of the first flight…

You then click ‘Continue’ and do the same thing again for your return flight…

When you’re done you review your full flight details and then click ‘continue’ to finish with the flight selection process…

The verdict (mobile)

Both airlines are pretty much the same here. The only difference between their process was that Jetstar used the word ‘Hot fare’ on the first page, however it’s not enough to win this category.

The flight details challenge on mobile is a draw.

Who has the better checkout process?

So now we’ve selected our flights and we want to checkout… let’s see which airline has the better checkout process.

Virgin Australia (desktop)

The first step in the process is to enter your details and then click ‘continue’…

From there you have your seat selection…

Once you choose your seats or skip this option, you’re taken to this upgrades page…

You can choose any of the options you want or you can just scroll to the bottom of the page and click ‘continue’. Of note, the order summary is always on the right hand side of the page.

On the next page you have the option of buying travel insurance (another upsell)…

… before you scroll down and enter your details to make payment and book your flight.

Virgin Australia has a pretty standard checkout process. Maybe a few too many upsells in the process however I’m sure they’re tracking this and optimising offers, placement / inclusion of offers and flow.

Now let’s take a look at Jetstar…

Jetstar (desktop)

Here’s the page you’re taken to after you’ve selected the flights you want to book…

As you can see from this page, Jetstar asks you for all of your personal details AND tries to upsell you at the same time. I’m not a fan of this… I would rather break this up to capture the details of the traveller in case they abandon the booking and you want to follow up.

What I do like about Jetstar’s checkout process is that you can Add or Remove options directly on the page…

And this part is a little cheeky, but I’m sure they’re driving additional revenue by charging people to receive a text message of their flight details…

Again, here’s what it looks like when you add something to your order…

And if you don’t choose checked baggage, a popup is displayed that ‘sells’ you on why you should upgrade to checked baggage… nice!

When you’re done you click ‘Continue’ and you’re taken to the seat selection page…

… where you can either choose your seats or skip seat selection.

When you click ‘Continue’ you’re taken to another upsell page…

… where they try to sell you travel insurance, car hire and hotel bookings.

When you’re done you click ‘Continue’ and you’re taken to the last page of the process…

…where they try to upgrade you to carbon offset and support a charity.

When you’re ready you enter your payment details…

And then review your Flight Summary before clicking ‘Purchase’ to secure your booking…

And if you leave the browser open for too long, a live chat popup appears asking if you want to speak with someone from customer service.

The verdict (desktop)

While Virgin did have a shorter number of steps in their checkout process, and just asked for the traveller’s information before trying to upsell them anything, the Jetstar checkout process was a lot more intuitive and easier to use.

Yes, Jetstar had more steps in the process and tried to upsell you more but it was a lot easier to see what was being offered, a lot easier to add and remove options, and I really liked how they used popups for support and to upsell checked baggage.

With that in mind, the winner of this challenge was Jetstar.

Takeaways

Capture customers’ contact details before asking them to upsell or make payment, so you can follow up with them if they abandon the checkout.

Use popups in the checkout to upsell products that align with what your customer has selected.

Use a timed live chat widget to offer assistance in the checkout if the customer is on a step of the process for too long (you can test out different timings to find the best one).

If you are going to use upsells, make it really easy to add and remove them from the cart.

And don’t be afraid to test adding multiple upsells to the checkout process.

Now let’s take a look at the mobile checkout…

Virgin Australia (mobile)

Here’s the page you see after you choose your flight…

You enter your details and then scroll down and click ‘continue’

Again, I would have preferred the button was red so it was a lot more obvious but it’s not a big thing.

From there, you’re taken to the ‘Travel Extras & Payment’ page where you can review your order and make payment, on the one page…

It’s great that they’ve condensed the checkout to just the most important parts of the checkout, as well as offering PayPal as a payment option, which is best practice for mobile commerce.

Now let’s take a look at Jetstar…

Jetstar (mobile)

Here’s the page you’re taken to after you select your flights…

You enter your contact details and click ‘Continue’ to move to the next step, where they pre-select checked baggage for you for an additional price (note: Virgin Australia includes it within the booking price)…

You click ‘Continue’ to move on to the next step.

And if you don’t choose checked baggage, they have a popup trying to upsell you on it…

When you’re done you click ‘Continue’ and you’re taken to the ‘Meals’ upsell page…

You’re then taken to the seat selection page, where seats are pre-selected…

And if you want to choose your seats, the functionality is really easy to use…

When you’re done you click ‘Continue’ and you’re taken to the payment page…

You can pay using PayPal, the order summary is easy to read, and when you’re done you click ‘continue’ to secure your booking.

The verdict (mobile)

Virgin Australia’s checkout process is certain much shorter than Jetstar’s, which is good. But Jetstar’s checkout process has a lot more features and is much easier to use.

The fact that Virgin Australia doesn’t offer seat selection on a mobile device (and if they do I couldn’t find it) means that Jetstar definitely wins this challenge as well.

But it’s not just the seat selection that makes Jetstar the winner… they use popups to upsell checked in baggage, they include upsell steps in the process that are easy to use, and they use contrast and font sizing well to make it easy to understand what you need to do next.

So which airline has the better online booking process?

Here’s which airline won each of the challenges:

Desktop

  • Which airline made it easier to find flight details? – WINNER: Jetstar
  • Which airline had the better flight details page? – WINNER: Jetstar
  • Which airline had the better checkout? – WINNER: Jetstar

Mobile

  • Which airline made it easier to find flight details? – WINNER: Jetstar
  • Which airline had the better flight details page? – WINNER: Draw
  • Which airline had the better checkout? – WINNER: Jetstar

Jetstar has a far superior online booking system than Virgin Australia. Their design is better, the process is more intuitive, the functionality is easier to use, and they upsell better.

Nice work Jetstar!

Virgin Australia… you can learn a lot from your biggest competitor ;)

Alex Cleanthous

Alex Cleanthous

Chief Innovation Officer at Web Profits

Alex Cleanthous is Chief Innovation Officer at Web Profits. With more than 10 years experience in digital marketing, Alex is always on the lookout for smarter, faster and more scalable ways to achieve maximum growth with minimum spend.

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