Air Canada iPhone Application
Both business and leisure travelers have embraced self-service solutions because of the control and convenience it provides. Travel companies, especially airlines, have rushed to enable self-service to improve customer satisfaction and enjoy significant cost savings.
The recent proliferation of 'smart' mobile devices, such as the iPhone and Blackberry, provide a logical step to extend the reach of self-service. Although these devices offer tremendous potential as a self-service platform for travel, there are challenges to providing a great user experience while accounting for the strengths and weakness of different devices.
Air Canada has invested heavily in self-service over the past decade: flight bookings, check-in, flight status, and timetables are available on kiosks, standard web and mobile web sites. When Air Canada turned their attention to the iPhone, they turned to IBM Interactive to create a native iPhone application rather than a 'skinned', web-based application because the native app offers several key advantages.
Superior Customer Experience
Although the web browsing experience on the iPhone is quite good, the Air Canada native iPhone application provides a superior customer experience because it is fully optimized for the iPhone. It takes advantage of the iPhone's native buttons, controls and screen transitions. The touch areas are large and easy to use. Much of the content and logic is locally cached which reduces network data requirements and improves overall performance. Some functions are available when there is no network access, which is not possible with a web-based solution. Customer settings can be easily stored on the device to provide a personalized experience, and advanced functions such a location services, push notifications and purchases can be added.
A key design objective was to design an interface that would keep a consistent brand image and user experience across the multiple channels of Air Canada services and on the customer’s iPhone and iTunes. Equally challenging was to design a layout that would suit both the English and French languages on a smaller screen.
To ensure that the design of the iPhone application provided a good user experience, the application went through multiple usability tests. Users were video recorded while they were completing different tasks on the iPhone application. Notes on user paths and feedback were taken during each recorded session. The application was tested on different types of users, from someone that was not familiar with iPhone at all, to frequent flyers that already used existing Air Canada online services. Functions such as Find Flights and My Flights tested very well amongst users. Even people new to the iPhone found the application easy to use. Through usability testing, we were able to improve readability and add more intuitive indicators for notifications and changes.
Mobile Travel Portal
The Air Canada iPhone application allows customers to search for flights by flight number or city pair. Detailed flight times, gate and aircraft information are displayed in an easy to read table format.
The customer can subscribe to flight notifications and receive a text message or e-mail if the flight is delayed, cancelled or the gate changes. The customer's message 'inbox' is accessible from within the application, to make retrieving the messages easier. The application provides access to Air Canada's mobile check-in and fills in the name, frequent flier number and location to speed the process.
The customer's message 'inbox' is also accessible from within the application. Finally the application provides web links to some common travel services like The Weather Network and SeatGuru.com which can be viewed without leaving the application. The combination of these common travel services within a single application make the Air Canada iPhone application stand out among its competitors.
Key to success
The success of this project can be attributed to the team's focus in two areas: architecture and user interface design. As part of the project, Air Canada's host data was wrapped and exposed as lightweight, efficient web services. This reduced the complexity, and greatly improved the responsiveness (and ultimately the customer experience) of the application. The development team included a user experience expert, a visual designer and an airline application specialist. Significant effort in UI design, usability and performance testing ensured a high quality, finished product. As Air Canada’s Darcy Noonan said, "The team can be defined by their flexibility, teamwork and commitment. Out of the box thinking and ideas were brought to the solution to improve the application and generate new ideas for future versions. The offer of a usability test in order to ensure that we could deliver the best possible product given the project’s timeline demonstrates this commitment. There was no 'IBM' or 'AC' in this project. It felt like we were working together towards a common goal."
If you need expert help with the user experience of your business applications or websites take advantage of the depth of IBM Interactive's expertise to innovate and apply new and advanced technologies and techniques to facilitate the optimal human connection.