This week I found myself having to fly to Düsseldorf on business. I had flown with this German company before, but for the first time in years, I had to book the business flight myself. Skyscanner, wonderful as always, gave me the right schedule and airline information about the flight. But when hitting this aviation company’s website, oh boy, oh boy…I found myself thinking, ‘Is this the worst digital experience in aviation in the western world?’

Digital Experience

Designing a customer digital experience is easy: you put yourself in the customer’s shoes and think ‘how can I make the best, simplest, more frictionless experience possible for my customers?’. And the rest comes naturally.

Simplicity of UX

From the first steps onto this website, you notice how clunky it is. Finding stuff is, simply, not easy. Even if my IP is in the UK, it defaults to German. The button to swap to English is at the very bottom of a long and convoluted page!

Once I found my way around the languages (at last!), I had to get my head around the variety of ticket types (first, second class, smart, etc) and what I was entitled to, or not, with each of them. Finally, I had to choose my seat. Not easy…

Simple tip #1 – not many people speak German outside Germany. Always think ‘customer’ and offer key languages (English, Spanish, French, maybe Chinese) at the very top

Simple tip #2 – what customers use more often, goes in simple menus and buttons at the top. Make the website easy for customers, not easy for developers!

The Intimidating Checkout

Once I selected my seats, I wanted to checkout. Yes, you guessed it, very clunky. I had to check several times what I was buying just to make sure the system was not changing stuff I was selecting. Customers are generally scared of checkouts. Even digital addicted people like me can get nervous about a bad checkout: once you pay, there’s no way back! Or a very long waste of time ringing a call centre…

Simple tip #3 – a slick and intuitive checkout is critical for customers: it’s scary

Delighters or not?

OK finally got my tickets, and the system offered me the possibility of creating an outlook invitation for the flights. Neat! Except that when you click, it only lets you create an invitation for the way over. The way back is 3 days away, so not allowed. Ha!

Simple tip #4 – never use a non-slick delighter! It quickly becomes a disappointment, a lot worse than not offering the delighter. The sweet on the pillow in a hotel is lovely, until the day the cleaner forgets to put it on…


So, disappointed with the ‘delighter’ and a little scared about whether I’ve finally booked the right flights, I go to my email. My IP is in the UK, my name is Spanish and my passport details are also Spanish. Yet, I get a couple of pages long email… in German! Google translate here I come… right tickets, phew!

Simple tip #5 – unless you value your nationalism over your customers, it’s never a good idea to use a single language email not translated to English, the international language…

(p.s. even after changing my default language to English on the customer portal, which was a convoluted experience, the email with COVID instructions came, the day before flying, yes you guessed it, in German! I have not used google translate this often for years….)

Slick Operations

To my astonishment, I could only check-in within 2 days before flying. C’mon, this is a new airline, without the system constraints of the ‘old’ ones. Have they bought their systems from BA or Lufthansa? What’s worse, you can download a boarding pass, neither on a laptop nor on a phone. An error message comes up. Basically, you get to the airport, go to a machine, and print your boarding pass. What??? What is even worse, if you log in into your customer portal, the second ticket (being more than 2 days away) does not appear! It’s like it didn’t exist.

Simple tip #6 – learn from digital native organisations, instead of replicating the customer flaws of traditional operations

Customer Service

I was really confused about the whole thing. Emails in German, lack of invitation for the second ticket, error messages, no second ticket on my portal. And this trip is very important to me, as I am visiting a client for the first time. So I decided to ring the airline customer service to check all was well. Guess what, the phone number to ring is in Germany, and has a big disclaimer about long queues due to COVID (of course). In view of the likelihood of having to spend another few pounds on a useless phone call, I opt for sorting it at the airport and print everything I got instead just in case.

Simple tip #7 – if your operation is clunky, your customer services have to be world-class, easy and effective


Oh yes, nearly forgot, big notice on the back of the seat in front of me on the plane: ”Hier Könnte ihre werbung stehen!”.  Yep, could not resist getting my phone out and google translating it… “your advertisement could be here”.  Well, good job I’m curious about languages! If I had been a customer with less curiosity, I would have simply ignored it and assumed it was some COVID instruction or something.

Simple tip #8 – if you want to seek something, make it easy for your customers…

And here I am in Düsseldorf, hoping that I have a ticket for going back home, that I can get a boarding pass, and that I’ll understand the COVID instructions when announced on the tannoy in the plane….

If you need help creating a better digital experience for your customers,  please connect, we can help.

Andrew Salmon