Perfecting the Flight Booking Experience

Aer Lingus claims that their mobile app “boasts features that will help save time and improve your booking and travel experience”. With all the features in place, including online check in, adding boarding pass to the wallet, have they really thought of everything to achieve seamless user experience?

What's Aer Lingus?

Aer Lingus is the flag carrier airline of Ireland, and of the two Irish airline companies, along with Ryanair. Originally founded by the Irish government, it has been privatised between 2006 and 2015, while now being a wholly owned subsidiary of International Airlines Group.

From April 2020, Aer Lingus flies to 93 destinations throughout Asia, Europe and North America, including destinations in Europe: Austria, Belgium, Canada, Croatia, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey, the United Kingdom.


👣 Design Process

Creating a solution to a problem can often turn into a mess, especially without the proper timeline and a plan. That’s why I’ll use the Double Diamond design model, created by the British Design Council in 2005. The model contains four stages: Discovery, Definition, Development, and Delivery. Together, these stages work as a map designers can use to organise their thoughts to improve the creative process and develop and plan the project’s timetable.

double diamond

The focus in the first, Discover phase, is on understanding users and their problems. This is usually done by speaking directly with the people affected by the issues. 

In the second phase, Define, the findings are collected and narrowed down to find the key problem to focus on. 

This is followed by the Develop stage, where various potential solutions are created to answer a clearly defined problem. 

In the last phase, Deliver, the focus is on testing different solutions, rejecting those that don't work, and iterating on the ones that do. 


🔑 User Problems and Product Opportunities

The objective of the Discovery stage is to recognise and contextualise the actual problem or opportunity. Activities considered in this stage include market research and testing with users, with a primary focus on users’ needs, wants, and behaviour.

When looking to find the problems that the users have with the product, there shouldn’t be place for assumptions as they can often be wrong. The only right way to find out the users’ real pain points is getting them by analysing supporting data, which can be found in:

  • User feedback and reviews
  • Internal analytics
  • Internal feedback
  • Market research

Because this project was a self initiative one, there was no insight in internal analytics or feedback, so the data was gathered mostly from users’ feedback and market research.

What do users say?

Both App and Google Store reviews contained lots of complaints on connectivity and check-in issues. This was mostly related to their server and database issues, and there was nothing that can be done there. On the other hand, nearly 30% of the of the users felt that the app was missing the option to book the “multi-city” trip. Some of them complained about being able to select the dates with no flights, which resulted in many backs and forwards. Could this be their pitfall?

Can't book multi-city on app
Being able to select the dates with no flights
Trial/error to search for best prices

Focusing on user’s goals, expectations, and the reasons they use the Aer Lingus app will be of big importance when creating the product they’ll hopefully enjoy using. Detailed research is crucial for good design, and if done correctly, it often leads to a great product without wasting time and resources.


🟣 What jobs do users want or need to get done?

Apart from booking the return flight, users also want to book a multi-city trip via Aer Lingus mobile app. They also want to see which days have no flights to selected destination.


🟣 What do they need to do differently?

If they want to book a multi-city, they have to visit the Aer Lingus desktop site or open another competitor’s app. They have to try different days as it’s not visible which days are without flights to the destination they selected.


🟣 What consequences are caused by these?

Aer Lingus is losing the profit because they cannot provide this service to their users that only use a mobile app or for those “on the go.”

Problem statement

How might we provide a better way to search and book cheap flight tickets for multi-city trips on Aer Lingus Mobile app

👓 As Is Walkthrough

User experience research is often treated as an afterthought or a luxury that the product team cannot afford; hence this stage of the design process is often ignored. However, research is crucial, and along with testing, it should inform every design decision. Designers need to conduct user research often, as this is the only way to determine what users think and why they do what they do.

Mapping out the As-Is journey is a perfect way to see a bigger picture and understand the Aer Lingus app’s current flow. Images below show the process from the landing page to the last page after checkout. You can also check the full video.

The multi-city trip booking is not available on the mobile app. Even though there is something similar on the desktop version (check the video), it’s impossible to select more than two destinations, and the last destination has to be in the USA.

To develop empathy for the app users, As-Is Scenario maps are super beneficial as they contain users’ thoughts and feelings. Mapping them out can help to identify the negative emotions and see where they’re coming from.

As Is Scenario & Empathy Map

🗒 Heuristics Evaluation

Jacob Nielsen describes Heuristic evaluation (Nielsen and Molich, 1990; Nielsen 1994) as a usability engineering method for finding the usability problems in a design. They are called “heuristics” because they are general rules of thumb and not precise usability guidelines.


10 Nielsen’s heuristics (Scott, 2016)


A heuristics questionnaire is a detailed survey containing many complex questions. However, the focus is always on the most important things to get a great experience while using the app. Here is the feedback after filling in the checklist:


👀 Visibility of system status

Every screen does begin with a title or header describing the contents, and labels are shown adequately. Messages appear in the same place on each menu, and selected icons are distinguished from not-selected ones.

When booking a ticket, the app lets you select the date without flights – which is frustrating because, in this case, you have to go back and guess which dates have flights: trial and error. 


📋 Consistency and standards

No uppercase letters have been used in the app; abbreviations don’t include punctuations, and icons are labeled. There are no more than 20 icon types, and every window has a title. Field labels are consistent from one data entry to another.

Field labels disappear when you type in the content on the personal info page. For filled-in input fields, the only feedback from the app is a change of colour; no other legend is provided.
Sometimes the menu choice is not matching the menu title – for example, “Suggest improvement” becomes “Feedback” at some point in the flow.


⛔ Error Prevention

Users can enter more than one group of data on a single screen, and data inputs are case-blind. Navigation between the screens is visible and straightforward. The system warns users if they are about to make a potentially serious error.

Again the same, when booking a ticket, the system will let you select the date without flights – and then on the next step, you find out that there are no flights on the selected date.


🆘️ Help and documentation

Data entry screens are supported by navigation and instructions; the visual layout is well designed. Instructions follow the sequences of user actions.

There is no help link available on every page.
Once you access the help page, the session is finished, and you cannot continue where you left off.

📊 Market positioning – Innovation Map

Market Positioning refers to the ability to affect user perception concerning a brand when compared to competitors. The objective of market positioning is to set the identity of a brand so users see it in a certain way.

An innovation map is used to show how users see certain brands. The map helps to identify how competitors are positioned compared to our brand and identify opportunities in the marketplace. An example of users’ perception of evolutionary and revolutionary are mapped below. Even though there is a vast area to cover in either evolutionary or revolutionary square for existing and new offerings, Aer Lingus seems to sit on the edge – even behind his big Irish competitor RyanAir.

Market positioning - Innovation Map

⚔️ Competitor Analysis

One of the most critical steps when building a new product is finding out where you stand with competition. It’s essential to perform detailed research and learn as much as possible about your competitors before you start with the design. 

By conducting a competitive analysis in UX design, it’s easier to identify competitor’s strengths and weaknesses. Investigating the landscape of competitors through different structures can improve your design decisions and help with delivering a better product solution.

💡 Tips when conducting competitive analysis

Create a list of main comparison criteria before starting, to keep your research guided. You can always add more items if required.

Don’t copy the designs from your competitors, as they may not be using best practices. Be inspired by the solutions and adapt them to your brand and audience.

When studying things in common, it is good to write down the things users can do and map out the journey to check if they match with what you are offering. Things to consider are the good and bad features, user reviews, design, customer service, etc.

However, don’t take the data you get from the analysis for granted. If you look too deep into what your competitors are doing, you won’t give yourself space to innovate and lead, as you may be missing the mark when it comes to creating truly innovative solutions. 

You can use your learnings to build a plan that will create an asset or product that competitors don’t have, but that is down to your ability. Depending on how good you can assess, the data will define how vital and relevant that information is. Insights gathered from the analysis are only as good as the person understanding and interpreting them.

🚀 Opportunities

All common features came up from the conducted research and what the competitors do right and wrong. When those are compared with the AerLingus app, it’s easy to map out the areas that can be improved: 

    • Search for multi-trip inside the app
    • World map with possible destinations
    • Multi-trip monthly view
    • Checkout/purchase with Apple Pay/Google Pay

💥 Big Ideas

Having all the features listed above, I’ve decided to place everything in one place and call this board “Big Ideas.” Even though it’s less likely all these features will be available in the Aer Lingus app, it will help to visualise them in one place and focus on the most important ones, those that should solve users’ problems with the Aer Lingus app.

Big Ideas mapped

📋 Surveys

Surveys are a fast, inexpensive, and easy way to get desired information about your existing and potential users. It’s a set of questions sent to a targeted audience, asking about their experiences and preferences. 

When designing a UX survey, there’s no way to be perfect; always leave yourself someplace to learn and improve. A poorly designed survey won’t produce valuable information.

🪡 How to design a good survey?

The first step towards designing a good survey is understanding your customer’s problem. Once you get that right, pay attention to the questions you’re asking, as there are good and bad question types.


✅ Good questions

  • Task-driven feedback questions (“Tell me about your experience using your current flight booking app”)
  • Open-ended questions about expectations (“What’s your favourite feature?”)
  • Follow-up questions (“How would you rate your experience of the AerLingus app?”)

⛔️ Bad questions

  • Closed-type questions. If a user can answer your question with a simple “yes” or “no,” – this is a wrong question because you can’t dig deeper into a users’ mindset and reasoning behind the answers.
  • Leading questions. These are the kind of questions that encourage the wanted answer (“Would you use this product if we created it?”).

After four days of publishing the survey, 58 responses were gathered altogether. 

After taking it down, a lot of data had to be sorted through. However, if you use Google Forms as a tool, the answers received will automatically be turned into more visually appealing pie and bar charts, which will make the job much easier. 

⭐️ Here is what I've learned from the surveys sent:
87% - have flight cost as a priority
68% - searches at an airline app
60% - have done multiple destination trips
43% - thinks searching multi-trip tickets is moderate
87% - would change flight date for a better price
⭐️ This is what users said about their experiences and preferences when booking a multi-destination trip:
90% - visit 3 destinations
90% - has a price as their main priority
90% - are flexible with order in which they visit destinations
90% - are flexible with dates

💡 Few bits of advice when designing the survey:

  • Keep it simple.
  • Be transparent. Avoid slang, acronyms, and other language that could confuse your users. 
  • Test, and then re-test your survey to ensure every question is asking only about one thing. 
  • Give a way out. Keep in mind that the options you provided might not apply to some users.

🎤 User Interviews

User interviews are a UX research method mainly used to discover more about the topic of interest, in this case, about users’ behaviours and habits when using the Aer Lingus app. They are used very often as they are a quick and easy way to collect user data.

Interviews will often give an insight into what users think about the product or a process, what they feel it’s missing or what can be improved. You can conduct interviews in many stages of the design process, but this time I’ll perform the interview to inform personas and find out the pitfalls in the Aer Lingus app.

🖌 Planning the interviews

To ensure that the interview is moving in the right direction, you need a plan. Depending on the stage of the design process you’re conducting the interview in – it will follow a slightly different process, but the core is the same. Here are some tips before starting:

  • Prepare the Script 
  • Prepare the scenario with tasks (not too many, it’s always better to focus on less and do it right)
  • Prepare the consent form
  • Map out the goals you want to achieve and questions you want to get the answers on
  • Find the right users for interviews, preferably the ones using the app often.

📎 Few extra tips before you start

Once everything is ready, the interview can start. However, there are still some things that you have to bear in mind during the session itself (similar to the rules for surveys):

Don’t influence the opinion of the users in any way. 

Don’t ask closed-ended or leading questions.

🧩 Findings

Using this quantitative method, I tried to measure how well a user can complete a certain task and reveal the possible problems they encounter. I was also aiming to get a better insight into the things that user likes and doesn’t like on the web site and mobile app. At this point, it’s crucial to listen to the users and analyse the suggestions, because sometimes they may have ideas on how to improve the design and experience of the app.

Here is an example of the findings after the interviews. Next step is analysing the data and narrowing down to find the key problem to focus on.


✈️ Aer Lingus app – Round Trip journey 

  • Uses SkyScanner mostly to search for the flights because she has wider picture 
  • Didn’t do multi-city trips so far 
  • Uses desktop version when searching for the flight because has more info and can open more tabs if wants to search for more flights at once 
  • Likes the fact that she can see prices for more days at once even on the mobile app 
  • When booking the flight, she takes the basic/cheapest option 
  • Doesn’t really like the fact that she has to put all her personal details  
  • Hates dark patterns (tick the box if you don’t want to receive)
    “I hate when they do this! Like, you’re supposed to tick the box if you WANT TO receive, not the other way around! That’s a tricky one” 
  • Doesn’t see the reason to give her phone number because they never contact her via phone 
  • “Why do I have to select the tittle? Why do you need the title? Doctor??” 
  • Would pick the seat only on long destinations, not for the 2 hour flight 
  • “I would remove the phone number and the title” 
  • Likes the “take me anywhere” option on SkyScanner 
  • Would like to have an info for the dates when there are no flights
  • Seat selection isn’t clear.


✈️ SkyScanner – Multi-City Trip

  • Would use SkyScanner for multi-city trip 
  • Would prefer to take direct flight rather than stop-over, even if it would be more expensive
  • Likes the monthly view with prices
  • Likes the fact that she can choose between different airports in one city 
  • Trial/error to find the best prices
  • Struggle with complex/unnecessary input fields.
  • Multi-trip search requires memorisation, trial/error.
  • Frustrated when the company tries to force extras.
  • Confusion with price system.
  • You can select dates with no flights.
  • Trial/error to search for best prices.
  • Can’t edit details later.
  • Confusing fields (title / phone).


👟 Stepping into users’ shoes

In the second, Define stage, the focus is on filtering and working through all the findings you gathered in the previous stage. This often means narrowing them down, identifying the bottlenecks, and creating a list of the problems and opportunities to focus on.

After getting feedback from the surveys and all the data from our interviews and usability testing, I did a segmentation table based on the categories listed below.

Customer segmentation is about distributing your potential users, generally a large mixed group, into logical subgroups based on common characteristics. Its purpose is to tailor the product or service to satisfy the various needs of various groups.

Segmentation table

👤 Creating a user persona

User personas are replying to the question “Who are we designing for?” They should be leading the way in the design process by reminding us which expectations, challenges, behaviours, and final goals our users have. 

A persona represents the actual target audience data gathered in previous research phases, such as user interviews and surveys. The information will overlap, and this is where you have to seek patterns, as they will form your UX persona. 

First step is  identifying the appropriate individuals that represent the needs and interests of the larger group. From the data I analysed, I created two personas – Mario and Conor.

One of the main benefits of creating personas is developing empathy for the users. Just after you fully empathise with the user, you can be sure you’ll meet all the users’ goals, as you’ll be placing the user at the center of the design process.

🚗 Mapping the As Is scenario


Once the personas are set, it’s time to begin to think about what they do. Mapping the As-Is scenario involves asking what is the user doing, thinking, feeling throughout his or her experience with your product or service. This activity will help find out what the user needs to accomplish and make it easier for you to decide what to include and omit from the design.

Although scenario mapping probably won’t cover every single type of interaction, it should encapsulate the most important ones.

🎭 Empathy Map

An empathy map, like a persona, is also used as a guiding light throughout the design process. It gives a detailed portrayal of the given user types by answering four simple questions: what the user thinks, says, does, and feels.

Overall, empathy maps are great tools that help designers understand users better, gain empathy, and get familiar with their behavioural patterns.

Empathy Map

I used the empathy map to enhance empathy towards the user, categorise and make sense of qualitative research data and discover the possible gaps in the research itself.
It also served us as a quick way to show users’ behaviours, thoughts, and attitudes to other members of the team and stakeholders. It’s crucial to keep the empathy map updated as more research is done.

🛤 Storytelling canvas

The storytelling canvas will help with organising all the things gathered in the research into a strong and designed storyline. The focus of this tool is to create the storyline with the primary user in mind.

Storytelling canvas

This tool proved to be extremely helpful because it’s challenging to choose the right tools to shape the solution without a clear idea of the story itself. There are several questions listed in canvas, and only after answering them was it clear that our target users don’t want just an app to book the flight. They want the entire experience, the app that understands their needs and knows how to search for the best deal.

🏞 Storyboard

A storyboard is a tool that visually predicts a user’s experience with a product. It’s a linear sequence of illustrations combined to visualise a story. It can help UX designers understand the flow of user’s interaction with a product, highlighting what’s important for users.

The primary purpose of a storyboard is communication. The illustration you’ll draw doesn’t have to be perfect; it’s the actual story you want to tell that is important.


The main journey of the target user is clearly visible in the storyboard above, which will be a guiding star when creating the design.

📌 Prioritisation Matrix

The best way to map the features and improvements that require less effort and bring more value to the product is by using the prioritisation matrix. The Impact Effort Prioritisation Matrix is an exercise that allows its users to categorise ideas, paying attention to the effort required and the potential impact.

The four sections of the matrix are:

1. Quick wins (high impact, low effort)

These are the most attractive ideas/projects as they give a good return for a small effort.

2. Major projects (high impact, high effort)

While these give great returns, they often take a long time to complete and can be challenging to accomplish.

3. Wait (low impact, low effort) 

If you’ve got spare time, do them. If not, park them aside. 

4. Avoid (low impact, high effort)

Apart from giving meager returns, they waste time that would be better used elsewhere.


After going through the feedback from users and other findings, it was time to put all ideas inside the matrix. The items in green are the ones that the focus should be on:

  • list the flight prices for each day on a calendar
  • use visual elements like images of destinations
  • price transparency
  • no advertisment
  • biometrics for identification
  • payment with Apple Pay, Google Pay or PayPal
  • select luggage and seats on the same page
  • ability to search and book multi-city trips
  • interactive map showing destinations and prices


🖍 Let’s do the design. Finally 🙂

The third stage of the Double Diamond design process marks the start of doing actual design, i.e., making the solution to the problem outlined in the first two stages. It’s essential to understand the context in which users interact with the new prototype. This is where To-Be scenarios will come in handy.

🛫 To-Be Scenario Map

Scenario mapping is one of the UX methods where a designer (with the help of the stakeholders) outlines all the steps a user will take while executing a task. It consists of four layers: 

  1. stages that have to be outlined first
  2. what users are doing at each stage
  3. what users are thinking and feeling at each stage
  4. what users are feeling and feeling at each stage

Good to-be scenario map relates to the As-Is map and outlines solutions to the existing problem. It resolves users’ pain points while telling an engaging story. 

After mapping is finished, next stage is grouping similar stickies.
If necessary, the order can be refined and new columns can be drawn out which will represent new phases of user’s future experience.

From this exercise following steps are outlined as the ones that the focus should be on:

  • Displaying the prices above each date
  • Displaying only the available dates
  • Make the seat and luggage selection clear, without any ambiguity
  • Ask only relevant personal info
  • Review the info before payment
  • Easy payment option (Apple/Google pay)

🗒 Paper Prototyping

As all ideas and feedback are gathered, it’s time to start sketching and creating the first low-fidelity paper prototypes. Prototyping on the paper has many advantages, such as being fast and straightforward to produce, and easy to modify.


In this stage, it was important to make sure the flow is correct and main CTAs are in place. The feedback received after testing paper prototypes was crucial before starting with the work on low fidelity interactive prototype.

⏳ Low-Fidelity Prototyping

Low-fidelity prototyping is a quick and easy way to render high-level design ideas into tangible and testable artefacts. The main role of lo-fi prototypes is to check and test functionality rather than the product’s visual appearance.

The first interactive prototype ended up being a slightly better version of the existing app with a more effortless flow. After user testing, the feedback received was to make the experience more emotional by extending the map and showing the destination prices.

The AirBnb website was a perfect inspiration, where all the prices are shown on the map. In this way, the experience remains positive, and the page is not cluttered or confusing for a user.

AirBnb search screen
AirBnb search screen

Iterating, a new prototype was created with a bigger map containing prices and planes when the destination is selected, with the improved flow showing the dates and travel extras.

Further usability tests were conducted and the design was refined many times before moving it into a high-fidelity prototype.

🩸 Branding

Because the entire existing app was about to be changed, it was essential to understand Aer Lingus and its current branding. From the research, the following brand values were outlined:

  • welcoming and warm
  • characteristically and traditionally Irish
  • helpful to their passengers
  • approachable, obliging and communicative

🎑 Moodboard

Moodboard, also known as an “inspiration board,” turned out to be an excellent way to focus on the design process, capture and organise the thoughts, and convert them into visuals.

Most of the inspiration was found in the AirBnb desktop app, as they showed a map with clearly visible prices. Also, looking up to Google flights app, the photos of the cities were picked up and later included in the high fidelity prototypes.


⌛️ High-Fidelity Prototyping

A high-fidelity prototype is an interactive representation of the product in its closest resemblance to the final design. The hi-fi prototypes cover the user interface regarding visuals and aesthetics and the user experience features in terms of interactions, user flow, and performance.

Even though users liked the high-fidelity prototype, they didn’t notice the planes moving. This phenomenon is called “change blindness,” which is people’s tendency to ignore the changes when they happen far away from their focus.

The only way this problem could be fixed was by using animation. This resulted in a high-fidelity prototype of the app with the preview element separately animated in Principle to display the functionality. Some of the critical flows of the app are shown in the video below.


📱 Test. Test. Test

The fourth and final stage of the Double Diamond framework is Deliver. From the previous stage there will be a few different ideas, which should be tried out. The process is simple – Working ideas remain, and those that are not working will be thrown away.

🕵️‍♀️ Testing with users

Testing with users shouldn’t happen only once in the design process, as many think. Personally, I believe that designers should be testing with users at least three times during the process:

  • Test the existing app with users. Find out what they like the most and what they hate the most. Which aspects of the current app are not meeting user expectations.
  • Test your prototype. Start with low fidelity designs first, make the flow right and then focus on visual design. Then test everything. And even when you think you don’t have to test anymore, test one more time.
  • Test your redesigned app. At this stage, you’d probably think that the product is finished. But it’s not. There’s still a place to improve, and the only way to know is to see how real users are using your app.

🖌 Planning the testing session

Testing sessions with users helps us to make sure that the products we created as designers are working expectedly. To ensure that the session is moving in the right direction, you need a plan. All three types of testing listed above will follow a slightly different process, but the core is the same. Here are some tips before starting:

  • Prepare the Usability Testing Script (Steve Krug’s instructions in “Rocket Surgery Made Easy” is perfect)
  • Prepare the scenario with tasks (not too many, it’s always better to focus on less and do it right)
  • Prepare the consent form
  • Make sure the prototype is working seamlessly
  • Map out the goals you want to achieve and questions you want to get the answers on
  • Find the right users for testing
Interview Documents

📎 Few extra tips before you start

Once everything is ready, testing can start. However, there are still some things that you have to bear in mind during the session itself (similar to the rules for surveys):

  • Don’t influence the opinion of the users in any way.
  • Don’t ask closed-ended or leading questions.
  • Don’t look for feedback. The goal is to get the task done rather than check what users think is the best colour for the dashboard.

👫 Participants

From the data collected during the survey, it was easy to outline what the target demographic is. This will help in recruiting suitable participants.

Frequent Travellers wanted.

Age: 25-45
Gender: Male or Female
Nationality: Any
Technology Skill: Any

🔀 Process

At the beginning of the session, every participant was welcomed and explained what the session objectives are and their role in the usability testing session. Only open-ended and profiling questions were used to discover more about participants’ travel habits and their experiences with Aer Lingus mobile and desktop app.

Each participant was given two tasks:

  • find and book the cheapest return flight to Paris,
  • find and book the cheapest multi-city flight to Paris and Amsterdam

🔍 Analysing the data

After getting the feedback from 19 participants, the best way to organise them seemed to be through the affinity diagrams. Affinity mapping is a collaborative exercise where different perspectives can help uncover user barriers. All important findings received were grouped together in common themes. Now the following step was voting. 📊

Affinity Diagram

This exercise resulted in gathering a shared understanding of the users’ problems. Also, thanks to affinity diagramming, I had a better insight into the common issues repeated between the participants.

Below is an example of some that repeated.

🪜 Iterating towards the final product

The way people say they will behave in any given circumstance and how they actually behave are two completely different things. User research in the first phase of the design process deals with what people say they will do, as there’s no available product yet to examine what they do.

On the other side, after testing the actual prototype with users and getting honest feedback, things are more tangible. Then, with iteration and adapting the design based on the feedback received, the way to the perfect product is more precise.

The final product I eventually came up with is a mixture of ideas approved by feedback received from targeted users. It’s a product that got finalised after so many iterations, and each one of them made it a bit more perfect than it previously was.

However, it’s silly to call this the end of the design process. The game is still on, and the research, prototyping, and testing should still be happening, along with the iteration, because that’s what makes the product perfect—constantly evolving and listening to your users.