Whatever happened to the route map?

Air routes over globe

For some reason many airlines seem to have either hidden it away on their website or done away with it altogether.

It’s been a creeping trend, that I hadn’t really noticed until recently, when it seemed to have reached a tipping point.

Now it is almost the norm; to not be able to quickly see where an airline flies within one click of the home page.

That’s a bold statement. Can you back it up?

Yes, I think I can. I’ve done a quick check on 50 airline websites selected at random. Of them…

  • 31 (62%) had route maps.
  • 7 (14%) had route maps hidden away more than 2 clicks from the home page.
  • 13 (26%) did not have a route map.

IE 40% of airline websites either have no route map, or hide it.

Why is this important?

Well, it has always been the case that the majority (75%+) of online travel bookings are preceded by online travel research (The typical travel shopper visits 22 websites in “multiple shopping sessions” before booking a trip – IATA Future of Airline Distribution – A Look Ahead to 2017) and the use of mobile devices for both research & booking is rapidly increasing (Since 2009 the number of leisure travellers using their mobile devices for travel information has increased by over 450% – The 2012 Traveler Study by Google and Ipsos MediaCT).

So, travellers like to research before booking and they are using tablets & smartphones more and more to do it. But, as we all know, searching and navigating is less nimble (even with sophisticated apps) on mobiles than on desktops, and users are notoriously fickle (61% of mobile users say they move on quickly if they don’t find what they’re looking for – Tnooz Jan 2013).

So we want answers to our key questions quickly, and very, (very, very) often our first question for an airline website is not: “What is the fare for a single adult traveller from Manchester to Minsk departing Oct 14 & returning Oct 21?

It is more likely to be: “Do you fly to Minsk?” followed by “From Manchester?

This is where route maps come into their own because, not only do they provide that information at a glance, but also they show direct routes. A form, even a fuzzy form, may well confirm that this airline flies from Manchester to Minsk, but not make it immediately clear that it’s via Riga!

The decreasing number of airline websites with up front route maps has been apparent for a couple of years now, but ironically the most glaring and irritating route map absence I’ve encountered was after I started counting airline sites for this post, and it isn’t an airline.

I was thinking about a camping trip to Wales with a car-less friend from Teignmouth. I don’t want to drive from London to Devon to pick him up & then to mid Wales. Perhaps he could get a coach to somewhere that intersects my route to Wales?

Try researching that on the National Express website!

No really, have a go! (Try it on your smartphone if you really like a challenge!)

Everyone knows the world-famous design icon, the London Tube Map. It is the classic distillation of both ‘form’ and ‘function’ and is the ultimate route map, still in continuous and hurried use every second of every day because it conveys complex, detailed information and options, at a glance.

It may seem a little ‘analogue’ in a digital world but all transport companies, especially airlines, should remember the London Tube Map and make sure they have route map at the front of their website.

Do you agree?

Photo: Bigstock/Antartis

(Still working on the National Express challenge? Hehe! Told you!)

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4 Responses to Whatever happened to the route map?

  1. Stuart says:

    Good post Al. I love route maps. I also think technology isn’t always best when it comes to route maps (when airlines can be bothered)

    Look at this from Air Asia


    Interactive. Comprehensive. Shiny. And shite.

    Or this from qantas


    So slow.

    Now check this out from Bangkok Airways


    Of course this assumes that airlines want passengers to have as much info as possible. Not my experience lately.

    Hey ho

  2. Stuart says:

    ps Bangkok Airways obviously wins I should add :)

  3. Pingback: Is The Internet Changing Flight Route Maps? | TripDates

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