Stats from our recent Understanding Airline and Travel Trends Report show that airline websites have the highest booking abandonment rates in online travel. 

In this post, we’ll look at why this is the case, and how airlines can seek to minimize booking abandonment

First of all, let’s look at the data. This is our client data for 2018, and shows that airline websites have the highest abandonment rates, at 87.87%.

This is higher than the overall average of 79.17%, and the overall online travel abandonment rate of 81.31%.

There are several reasons for this, but the main one is simply that the airline booking process is often longer than the rest.

The average retail purchase is relatively simple, and often much cheaper. It requires less consideration and planning and the checkout is faster, meaning fewer abandonments.

For travel in general, our stats include car hire firms and hotels, where the process of booking is simpler. Hiring a car shouldn’t be any more difficult than the average retail purchase, while booking a hotel often doesn’t even require upfront payment.

By contrast, booking a flight is more complex. It requires the selection of departure airports and destinations, entering details (including things like passport numbers) for each traveller, selection of extras like in-flight meals, and more.

Add hotel bookings or car hire to this booking process, and we can see how airline websites face a greater challenge to address the problem of cart abandonment.

With huge revenue at stake (the airline industry was worth $564bn in 2018), it is crucial for airlines to make sure that they are not losing sales.

If online abandonment can be reduced even slightly, it can equate to a huge boost in revenue.

Some level of booking abandonment will always exist for airline websites, but it can be reduced, and there’s plenty that airlines can do to encourage those that do abandon to return later.

User experience matters. It is now a key differentiator for online travel sites, so it’s vital to design sites with a focus on the customer, and to continually test and improve to avoid unnecessary friction during booking.

Another approach is to understand how people research travel purchases. Reasons linked to research are the biggest factors in booking abandonment – seeing what’s available, comparing prices, and checking with other travellers.

Airlines can approach this in two ways; by helping travellers research and ensuring they can get much of the information they need without heading to other sites, and by making it easy to return to bookings they’ve left behind.

For example, detailed destination guides can help customers when they’re deciding where to go, and answer key questions about local facilities, transport links, weather, things to do and more.

For example, Air France has comprehensive guides to its destinations, which are a useful resource for travellers at the research stage.

It’s important to realise that people will abandon as part of the research process. Some will begin bookings when they’re not ready to buy just to find out find out key details, such as flight schedules, final prices, and seat availability.

In such cases, it can help to allow them to save details. In the example shown below, KLM offers a ‘mail my search details’ option, as well as the chance to take an option on the flight for $20, to secure the price for a few days.

Prompts to save flight details can be prompted by various factors, such as the time spent on pages, or periods of inactivity.

Once customers have selected these options, airlines can then send booking abandonment emails, reminding them of the flights they were considering, and prompting them to return and complete the booking.

Emails like this can be just enough to prompt users back to their booking. Indeed, 87% of the consumers we surveyed said they would consider returning to an abandoned travel booking.


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