In the distant past I wrote a few luke-warm posts on the iSeatz ancillary revenue integration at KLM.com (eg. here, here and here) so I was very happy earlier in the week to spend a few minutes talking with with Kenneth Purcell and Allan Darnell – respectively CEO and COO of iSeatz. The main purpose of the discussion was to hear about what they are calling their new In-Path technology. It is more than just shopping basket, but from looking at the radically improved KLM website, this was the part I was initially most interested in.

I’ve actually been spending a bit of time thinking about UI, UX and the like in recent days, and I’m also hoping to put up an interview in the coming days with the user experience guy from a travel website doing some extremely interesting stuff in the display of flight search results, but for now, let’s focus on KLM – they have moved to an approach which is what I would term “more retail” than any other airline website I can think of off from the top of my head. Just take a look at this screenshot of  the “buy” button after the fare review page. Very innovative approach.

But before heaping too much praise, let’s start off with the not so good. The pages are far from the fastest loading I’ve seen on an airline website. I’m not sure if this is the reason, but there are external calls being made left right and centre – calls to Webtrends, Tribal Fusion, Double Click, Yield Manager, Google Ad Services, Casale Media, Adviva and de17a.com, and that was just to display the calendar immediately after starting the search. There is some hardcore web analytics going on here, with a lot of tracking cookies from third parties which makes me a little nervous; although I’m pretty sure the great mass of the traveling public don’t have a clue and wouldn’t care anyway. It’s not like everyone was shutting down their Facebook pages a couple of months back, as most people never really think about privacy settings on their computer anyway. But they do care about speed.

One other challenge KLM are facing is in their use of one way display of itinerary filed fares. This issue is common to any airline wanting to adopt a more LCC style display with prices per leg instead of just one price for the entire return trip. But where it is more confusing on KLM is that there is a requirement to scroll up and down when many flight options are available. As one way display requires a dynamic updating of the screen depending upon the combinability of inbound and outbound legs, having a scrolling displays risks confusing the customer, or even worse, leaving them thinking something underhanded might be going on (remember, who outside the industry would have a clue what the previous few sentences meant!). Take the screen shot here as an example – I’ve done a search MAD – NYC and after selecting the outbound flight I’ve scrolled down (not visible here) and changed the inbound flight to a second option which was eight Euros more expensive. But I then need to know to scroll back up to understand that the outbound leg has increased significantly in price as a result of my lower selection. Only by mousing over the new higher price do I get the explanation text that is also visible in the screen shot. One way display of itinerary fares is great, but when you can’t fit the entire display in one screen without scrolling, and when prices are dynamically updated in non visible parts of the screen, then you enter a whole new world of UI challenges.

Overall I like the new design, and I definitely like the gamble they have taken in giving the entire flow a more retail oriented flavor – time will tell if it pays off and other follow. In the next post I’ll talk about the booking flow post hitting the “add to your order” button; this is where the “retail flavor” really is noticable and it is where the iSeatz part kicks in.

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