Poor User Experience at Virgin Blue Website

I did a silly thing. A couple of days ago I booked a flight on Virgin Blue to Adelaide. I booked it in a rush. I booked it for the wrong date. Doh! My partner realised this afternoon then rang and told me. So I jumped onto www.virginblue.com.au and navigated my way to the Manage Bookings page. It looks like this (I've cropped out the top part of the page).

"looks simple enough", I thought. But I was wrong. Here's why:

Reservation # - OK, this is pretty straightforward, although the designers are assuming that I know # means "number". By the way, this isn't consistent with what's displayed in Virgin Blue's online check-in interface:
"Passenger first name" and "Passenger last name"- Seems straight forward enough, but it isn't. The booking I was changing has TWO passengers - myself and my partner. Which name should I enter? After contemplating this for a few moments, I assumed I should enter the passenger name which appeared first in the original booking. But I couldn't remember if I entered my own name or my partner's name first in the original booking. Argh!

So I gave up and moved over to the second set of input fields:

Reservation #: - Hmmm same issue as above
Departure date: Ouch! Sore point - this is the whole reason I needed to change my booking (I got the departure date wrong in the original booking). Deep breath, move on Suze. So I needed to choose the original departure date using these dropdown lists. The fields aren't aligned and have no default values, so it's difficult to anticipate what I need do with them. Again, these dropdown lists aren't consistent with other parts of the www.virginblue.com.au interface. For example, check out Virgin's flight booking interface:
This interaction design is much better. Dropdown fields are nicely aligned and the default values are intelligent (they are based on today's date). Plus, there is a very handy date-picker icon to the right (which I always use, by the way - I find it much easier to use a date-picker than remembering a date). Now, why couldn't the Manage Bookings interface use the same interaction design?

Back to trying to change my flight...
Contact E-mail: Doh! I can't remember which of my many email addresses I used to book this flight. I know that's silly of me, but I bet I'm not the only one! And by the way, who spells email as E-mail? Picky I know, but by this time I was annoyed and cranky.

I tried and tried various combinations of things in the fields available without any luck. After a quite a few attempts, I received a message saying I had tried too many times and I would have to wait 30 minutes before trying again. ARGH! ARGH! ARGH! ARGH! I. JUST. WANT. TO. CHANGE. MY. FLIGHT.

I ended up calling the Virgin Blue call centre, waiting in a queue for 15 minutes then the operator finally telling me that she was able to log-in to my booking. Grrrr. Finally, I logged-in and changed my flight.

While I did end up achieving my goal, it was not a positive experience. It wasn't even a neutral experience. It was negative. It made me feel stupid and made me think that Virgin Blue is a stupid organisation that doesn't care about it's customers. Designing an online experience that is positive for customers is not a luxury. It's a necessity. Each time a customer has a bad experience with your organisation, it effects how they feel about you. You need to oberserve your customers, analyse their tasks and design an interface which supports their needs.

Oh and by the way, while writing this post I noticed something else. To check-in for a flight I need only to enter my reservation number (or membership number - I have a choice) and select my departure city. Why, for Pete's sake then, do I need to enter all this other guff when I want to change my booking online. What was I saying about stupidity....

(Yay! You reached the end - you read the whole post! Rock on! Why don't you leave me a quick comment with some feedback. Go on, leave a comment - it doesn't take long, I promise. Your comment will appear immediately - there is no moderation of comments. Plus - there's no Captcha image thingy to annoy you. So I've made it super easy for you to leave a comment. Go on, do it. Say "Hi" at the very least :)


Anonymous said...

Hi Suze,
Had to cancel rather than change to alternate booking today. Managed the site ok but was appalled at the cost involved.$86 with a credit pending of $84 for 2 tickets. Considering I have given 2 months notice of cancellation and it has been done for medical reasons I think it is a bit much. There is no reference for giving a reason.
Anyway, I hope you were able to change your booking without too much more trouble.
Regards Maureen

Anonymous said...

I was just about to transpher my dates..then i thought..no just cancel...get the credit the rebook....NOW IM TOO SCAAAAAAAAAARED to try anything after your drama...lol...hold your breath shelly...u r not the most patient woman in this world...o.k...u can do...go grl...transpher now!
I shall return with my experience soon?

Mathew Sanders said...

Not only is this an awkward experience, but because people are not being able to self service, they are moving to the contact center which will be costing Virgin Blue a significant amount of money.

I was involved in one project which had a cumbersome forgotten password flow that a large number of people could not navigate on their own. As a result the company was employing a full time equivalent dedicated to helping people with something as simple as resetting their password.

Now that's what I call C-R-A-Z-Y ;)