My Trips: A new Self-Service Hub for Copa Airlines
How a Design Discovery process helped us build a more robust self-service experience for an large international airline.
RoleDesign lead, UX Researcher, UI designer
I worked for the Digital Product team at Copa Airlines to redesign their booking management web application. This product, at the time called “Manage My Booking” was a web application through which passengers could review information about their upcoming flight as well as changing seats, requesting special services or canceling the reservation. The company needed to rebuild this product due to technical reasons, and so we decided to undergo a design discovery process to redefine this product. The result of that process is what became Copa’s new trip management product, My Trips.
Uncovering Design Challenges
Our first task in the discovery process was to review the old booking management application, to document its feature set and find areas of improvement, from a functionality and usability point of view.
Another place that seemed obvious for us to look into was the Call Center, as this was the main channel of service for customers of the airline at the time. We were interested in seeing what were the most common transactions customers were making through the call center and comparing these to what the web application offered: Whether these transactions were available for self-service and to what extent users were capable of accomplishing their desired goal.
From this research we identified the following design challenges:
Reservations are extremely varied in their nature and information, and this makes it difficult to account for all scenarios
Reservations vary widely in their itinerary, in the number of passengers and its rules. They can be sold by third-parties and be subject to all kinds of business rules. This, coupled with technical limitations, meant that customers were often unable to manage reservations through the application and had to rely on the Call Center.
How might we…
- Redesign this product using patterns that can accommodate different kinds of reservations?
- Honestly communicate to users why they can’t do certain actions? (Business rules & Tech limitations)
There’s a lot of information the customer needs, but we weren’t explaining it well
The information tied to a reservation is filled with many small but important details that prove difficult to explain well to customers who are not experienced in air travel. The booking management app had an outdated interface and the information was hard to digest.
How might we…
- Make the self-service experience excellent on any device?
- Express complicated information in easy-to-grasp ways for inexperienced travelers?
No central place to manage reservations, and no consistent way for passengers to stay up-to-date with their reservation
Copa Airlines had recently launched a new mobile app that provided some trip management capabilities. Despite being a better experience, there were many inconsistencies and gaps between the app and the web product.
How might we…
- Translate the “My Trips” experience from the mobile app to a web application?
- Ensure consistency between the two “My Trips” products?
As we advanced in our design work, this information proved to be very valuable, informing small and big design decisions throughout the process.
Defining the Product
The usual airline has 3 core digital transactions: Booking, managing your trip and checking in. Copa Airlines had all three and additionally had the mobile app, which was focused on serving as a “day-of-departure” tool for travelers.
This template, along with the insights obtained from our research, created a well-defined space to nail down what this new product had to be. We landed on a set design principles and attributes that the My Trips product must have.
Help passengers prepare for their flight
Flying internationally is a stressful thing to do. There are many steps involved, and it requires paying attention to many things at once. My Trips should, at relevant times, surface critical information to our passengers so that they may complete their travel in a safe and timely manner.
The passenger can quickly grasp the general aspects of their trip
When’s my flight? Where am I going? Who is flying with me? Where am I sitting?
Passengers are made aware of all requirements necessary to complete their journey
“Do I need a visa?”, “Do I need vaccines?”, “Does my child need special permissions to travel alone?”
Enable Passengers to Self-Serve
My Trips is all about self-service. The application should allow passengers to manage their reservation in a flexible way. It should also inspire confidence in them that their requests and changes are immediate and effective.
Passengers can modify aspects of their reservation effortlessly.
“I want to choose my seats”, “I want to change my travel dates”
Passengers can communicate their special needs with confidence
“I need to travel with my pet”, “I need a special type of meal”
Passengers are informed of any irregular operations in a timely manner to allow them make their own decisions.
“My flight is delayed”, “there’s a travel warning to the place I’m going”
Treat all reservations equally
Because reservations can come in all shapes and sizes, we should design an application that can account for and adapt to all these escenarios, using patterns that are universal and that respect the user’s intuition.
Passengers can understand the various aspects of their fare: benefits and restrictions
“My Economy Basic fare does not allow free seat changes”
Passengers understand the details of their flight and know what to expect from their flying experience.
“What’s the food on board?”, “What type of entertainment will there be?”, “How long is my layover?”, “What’s the aircraft?”
Model of The Application
My Trips would be a product where users can make different transactions related to their reservation. This meant that users could take numerous paths while using the app. When I started exploring early concepts of the application, a Hub-and-Spoke model felt the most natural for accommodating all the functionality the application would incorporate.
Users could access different transactions from a central hub of their reservation. They could then make those transactions in different screens of the application and return to the hub to see the changes they made be reflected on their reservation. This also has the benefit of letting users fully focus on the task at hand: Whether it is cancelling the reservation, selecting seats, or requesting special food, every functionality has its own dedicated screen free from distractions, and every transaction is finalized in its own screen.
Another benefit of this approach was that it allowed us to invoke these individual flows from other applications in a way that felt natural.
In addition to this “reservation hub”, we needed to solve the issue of not having a single place to view all trips associated with a person. For this, we imagined a dedicated view that could display all reservations. We called this screen the “Trip Hub”. We organized the trips in three general sections: The Upcoming Trip, composed of a large interactive card that showed the most up-to-date information about the trip; Saved Trips, which contains all other active reservations, and the Past Trips section, where all past and completed reservations would remain.
This project was one of many lessons. It was my first time leading a large product design project, and there was a lot of learning on the go. I believe the success of this project due to, in large part, the involvement and knowledge of many areas within the company, the seeking and understanding of user research and our ability to develop basic concepts and patterns that we could extend across functionalities and scenarios present in the application.
The My Trips app was publicly launched in August 2020.