Travel, Hawaiian Style
When Hawaiian Airlines approached us, they were sitting on a decade old online booking system deeply in need of a refresh. It had not withstood the test of time, and the booking experience had fallen behind industry standards.
Being a regional airline largely focused on bringing people to one of the most desirable places on earth, they experienced an unfair advantage in their market. While leisure travel was obviously a core part of their business, research into their existing data showed that they actually had 5 distinct audiences to think about:
- Leisure travelers coming to Hawaii from the U.S. mainland.
- Leisure travelers coming to Hawaii from international origins (largely asian countries).
- Leisure travelers looking to travel between islands during a longer trip.
- Casual, local Hawaiian travelers who need to fly in between islands for personal reasons.
- Business travelers living in Hawaii, or even coming from outside Hawaii.
All of these travelers have one commonality: the needed to book a flight. But in other respects, like their context and specific expectations, the differences were large. After digging into existing data and doing our own customer research, we had a few key observations:
- Leisure travelers dominated the bulk of seats sold.
- Most of Hawaiian Airline's money is made from the extras (hotels, upgrades, etc.). Seat sales only barely cover costs.
- Vacationers are more open to bundles and extras than most travelers, by a very large margin.
- While they are a smaller audience, the local Hawaiian market is very important to Hawaiian Airlines, being the largest employer in the state (in addition to being a local company).
- International travelers have different expectations from the flying experience than domestic travelers, and may even be used to difference pricing structures.
While making it as easy as possible to find and book cheap flights, we chose to focus on the most important audience: Leisure travelers. Instead of trying to sell flights as quickly as possible, we focused on selling ‘itineraries.’ Leisure travelers have much longer consideration cycles, and the itinerary concept allowed us to introduce the benefits of extras like in-seat entertainment, hotel and car savings, or even inter-island travel, earlier in the funnel.
Early in the process, the itinerary gets customers excited about the amazing trip they are about to take. It puts the flight choices in context of potential savings gained from bundling hotels, cars, and other extras.
Adding this step was a controversial one, but one that ultimately proved successful through extensive user testing.
Flight results are easy to parse, and can handle multiple scenarios: 1-2 transpacific flights a day, or even dozens of flights a day for inter-island travel.
Passengers are usually family and friends. So we treated them like real people.
Hawaii is not your standard destination. And Hawaiian Airlines is a Hawaiian company with a first hand perspective of their home. We placed the company and it’s values front and center.
Since Hawaiian Airlines know’s more about the islands than most, we helped them build an entire content catalog filled with great advice for travelers once they arrive, or to use as part of their trip planning process.
For the duration of this year-long engagement, we embedded ourselves in the complexities of air travel and the unique culture of Hawaii. By the end, the platform would set the foundation for Hawaiian Airline’s most important sales channel, and give them the tools they needed to create new kinds of travel products as they evolve into the next decade.