Quick Usability Comparison of Airline Terror Alerts
Like many, I woke up this morning to the news from London that the UK had foiled a major terrorist attack. We will learn more as this story unfolds. According to this article, "flights operated by Continental, United and American were the likely targets of the foiled plot."
Having just flown home earlier this week and recognizing that the only constant in travel these days seems to be change, I decided to take a moment and see how well these carriers are getting this new information out to their customers.
All three carriers provided some indication of important information on their home page, but to varying degrees of clarity and importance (I will try to upload screen shots later; in the interim, visit aa.com; co.com; united.com directly). Each then linked to a dedicated page with additional information.
What follows is a summary of each site, the link text used on the home page and a link to the detailed page. For each, I've shared my thoughts on what works well (+) and not so well (-).Fast usability feedback for developing times.
#3 United: New baggage policy, travel tips
+: includes information about how to access current schedule information and United's EasyUpdate service which sends updates via SMS or e-mail to mobile devices (but omits link to service)
-: page title of "Customer Travel Tips" doesn't convey importance of information, use of ALL CAPS and underlining
#2 American: Due to additional carry-on baggage procedures issued by federal authorities, some airports may be experiencing heavy congestion. Please allow plenty of time for security screening. Additional information including policies for future travel is available here.
+: Includes time of last update at top of page, used text anchors to quickly link to UK or US specific information, lots of information
-: fixed, small type size, narrative layout rather than scannable list of prohibited or acceptable items
#1 Continental: Travel Alert: Elevated Security
+: Includes time of last update at top of page, effective use of headings, makes use of bullet lists to aid in scanability of prohibited items and exceptions, limited use of bold text to highlight new recommmendation to arrive three hours in advance
Conclusion: Overall, Continental has done the best job here, with a direct color-coded link and a clear, well organized and detailed paged. While American put more information on the top of their home page, their detailed page left me more stressed and confused than Continental's (due primarily to the use of bold paragraphs and small type size). United's approach is the weakest, with decent information buried under vague link-text that I'd ordinarily skip right over. Baggage policy? Terrorist threat is more like it.