Launched in 2009, flydubai is one of the aviation industry's biggest success stories.
Starting life as a low-cost alternative to its partner airline Emirates, it's now one of the fastest growing in the world. Today, this state-owned airline flies to more than 70 destinations - and there are still new areas of the globe to cover. In the words of flydubai's chief executive Ghaith al-Ghaith, the potential is “almost limitless.”
Like any high-growth business, flydubai encountered challenges along the way. One loomed particularly large: its website. By early 2010, sharply rising traffic and transaction volumes put so much strain on the site that the airline's managers expected operational problems to kick in within 16-18 months.
Pan-global project development
flydubai asked us to work on an all-new customer experience that fully aligned with its ambitions and culture. Working seamlessly across 3 continents (with teams in Dubai, the UK and US) we tackled the interaction design, enterprise system integration, user testing and end-to-end build to successfully deliver a fully-branded UX and visual site. Despite the extremely tight deadlines, we successfully succeeded numerous business targets covering:
- Conversion rates
- Repeat custom volumes
- Ancillary revenues (e.g. pre-booked food and luggage)
- Internal content management convenience
- Enhanced brand experiences
- Robust and scalable new platform deployment
The user interface was delivered first before we tackled the technical integration, giving flydubai the ability to assess the site at an early stage. Throughout the project we worked closely with Radixx International, a software company specialising in multi-channel airline booking engines which run on Oracle. One of our more challenging tasks was to extend their US-focused platform functionality so it would cope with international norms and preferences.
“ There was a lot of pressure on the technical build but we hit the deadline, and always knew we would.”
Benedict Ireland, Head of UX
Focusing on customer-first feature design
To make sure our design team were free to address flydubai's requirements, we implemented our own .Net content management system which sits above Radixx in the stack, linking it with the front end via APIs. This helped us incorporate a number of key features in the design:
Book online, pay offline
The UAE's economy is mainly cash driven due in part to credit card industry distrust brought about by high levels of fraud. flydubai's passengers often need to book online and pay later - at a bank, retail outlet or the airline's stores. In Dubai, passengers can pay at 64 locations.
I browse, you buy
Men in the Emirates tend to handle financial transactions for women (our research found that female passengers often use Apple smartphones to browse flydubai's site and men then pay using Blackberry's). As a result, the site needs to allow flight bookings on behalf of others.
For fares of AED 1,000 (£160) or more, passengers can opt to pay in three or six monthly instalments.
flydubai's new site needs to operate in English and Arabic (and later in Russian). English and Russian consumers read from left to right so we designed, tested and built two mirrored sites through a scalable CMS platform and design which supported multiple languages.
To keep fares down, flydubai occasionally uses private, repurposed or old military airports which don't always support traditional check-in operations. So to help travel agents process passengers effectively, we designed a pioneering mobile website.
Multi-channel design that improves the bottom line
This new site build successfully overcame significant cross-cultural complexities and a series of substantial integration challenges. We helped avoid a traffic crisis too - with months to spare. “Any level of system crash would severely damage the reputation of the business” says Benedict Ireland, our Head of UX. “That just can't happen.” And it didn't.
Our new digital experience vastly improved flydubai's market share too, encouraging users to switch from rival airlines. As a result, flydubai secured its first ROI within seven months of the site going live.
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