From start to finish, the experience of flying is something to be borne and not to be appreciated this summer. Prices are high, delays are frequent and lines are inevitable. Even the act of booking a flight is arduous, with airlines selling out at every turn and a clear lack of clarity about what is included in the main fare.
A decade ago, Telegraph Travel compared the biggest short-haul airlines operating in Britain to see what makes finding a flight more time consuming. At the time, Ryanair was at the bottom of the pile, forcing customers to make 20 mouse clicks to get to the checkout screen, due to its numerous ‘offers’ and opt-out add-ons (there was even a ‘game for win your trip for free” game that required dodging). So we decided to repeat the test to see if, unlike other elements of the flight, things improved.
In part they have. While Ryanair still requires 12 clicks, it has simplified its website a bit, with many of its add-ons (car rental, fast boarding, fries) confined to fewer pages and switched to an opt-in rather than opt-in format. . Outside. Still, the increased charge for carry-on baggage has led to fare structures that are often unclear and can easily confuse passengers. Additionally, the 10 airlines we rated vary widely in the ease of use of their websites, with British Airways offering a relatively serene experience and Jet2 more hellish.
For each carrier, we chose a popular route and timed how long it took to find and book a return flight for a weekend in August, including the number of clicks it took to secure your flight. Essential steps such as drop-down menus to enter passenger details and clicks required to find the best rate are not included in the click count. Prices are for one adult, traveling with one item of checked baggage and paying by credit card.
Ryanair (London to Barcelona)
Flight cost: £305.19
How many clicks? 12. Compared to a decade ago, when it took 20 clicks to secure a Ryanair flight, the process has been simplified, but the no-frills airline doesn’t miss a chance to sell everything from airport parking spaces to Pringles. There’s a particularly hard sell on cabin bags, with warnings of €69.99 fines if the tiny size is violated – which seems pretty cruel once you’ve shelled out your checked baggage.
Time spent: 8 minutes. I was slowed down by the airline’s attempt to pass Girona as Barcelona, but once the banana peel was avoided it was a fairly quick process. You are required to create a Ryanair account, which adds another layer of administration, and it takes some time to solve the carry-on conundrum.
British Airways (London-Amsterdam)
Flight cost: £264.22
How many clicks? 5. The flag carrier may not have covered itself in glory lately, but when it comes to booking a flight, it has upped its game in recent years. The process does not require account creation or deactivation and the site is aesthetically pleasing (no pop-ups). There’s just a discreet push to add a charitable donation before payment, which passengers may be more inclined to do as they haven’t been sold out at every opportunity.
Time spent: 4 minutes. In theory, booking a short-haul flight with British Airways is quick and easy. It’s a shame it’s literally impossible to do so at Heathrow for now.
Flight cost: £250.62
How many clicks? 12. Booking a flight with EasyJet feels like an interview. He wants a lot of information, from age (are you over 18?) to the reason for the trip. It also requires an opt-out in marketing and ‘partners’ emails and makes you confirm that you have already purchased travel insurance (while trying to flog your coverage). The only positive is the easy-to-use pricing calendar, which makes it easy to find the lowest rates.
Time spent 8 minutes, with a feeling of tiredness resulting.
Aer Lingus (London-Dublin)
Flight cost? £226.35
How many clicks? 7. Booking flights with Aer Lingus is a relatively pleasant experience, with a handy drop-down list that lets you filter by departure time or price, and no nonsense when it comes to carry-on bags (all 10kg allowed). They do lose points, however, for a dated “check this box if you don’t want to receive marketing emails”. Even Ryanair has done away with this trick.
Total time spent: 6 minutes but would have been faster if I didn’t want my phone to be landlined and split between two boxes. It also offered to send a receipt via text message – for the bargain price of £2.
Flight cost: £305.75
How many clicks? 8. The relaunched Flybe is back with a very user-friendly website. There are warnings about the carry-on baggage allowance (no more than 7kg), but not a heavy sale, unlike others.
Time spent 10 minutes. The longest on our list, but only because it strangely required passport details to be entered at purchase – ask for a desperate house search.
Flight cost: £344
How many clicks? 6. While it only takes a few literal clicks to get to the checkout page, the Jet2 site experience is unpleasant. From the gaudy red design to the cynical attempts to ‘guarantee’ usually free cabin bags for £4, this leaves a bad taste. And that’s before trying to whip you an aboard meal of anemic-looking piri-piri chicken for £10.50.
Time spent 7 minutes. Admittedly, I spent some time scrolling through all the dining options – perhaps the gluten-free roast chicken dinner on the way to Faro would be a welcome addition?
Wizz Air (London-Budapest)
Flight cost: £409
How many clicks? 7. Technically a good experience as much of the sales attempt is kept on one page, however Wizz can’t resist tricks like making users click on ‘no insurance’ and ‘no, I don’t want to save money’ when reject membership of a ‘travel club’, which seems dated to say the least.
Time spent: 8 minutes. The required application slows the process down a bit, as does the disappointment of paying £400 for flights to Budapest.
Flight cost: £362.95
How many clicks? 6. The Spanish budget airline offers a pleasant booking experience, with points awarded for obvious price markings on seat selection and well-signed chance to flag if you have any special requirements. The usual suspects (car rental, insurance, lounge access) are all kept on one page easily ignored. However, the attempt to trigger baggage insurance “in case of delay” just before payment did not inspire confidence.
Time spent 5 minutes. There was a slight delay in considering how much clothing I could wear at the airport to avoid checking a suitcase that looked destined to be lost.
flight cost: £290.10
How many clicks? 7. A confusing site, largely due to its fare categories (low fare, low fare plus and flex), with the cheapest option strangely unavailable for many flights – a move that not even the usual no-frills suspects tend to pull. . Like Aer Lingus, they also offer to send you a purchase receipt via text for £2.
Time spent: 8 minutes – most of which was spent thinking about why I had to book the unnecessary ‘flex’ fare.
Tui (London – Mallorca)
flight cost £367
How many clicks? 10. Tui loses points for deleting individual travelers – his default selection of two passengers must be changed manually.
Your click count increases dramatically near the finish line, when passengers are asked to tick individual boxes if they don’t want to hear from Tui via email, text, phone, or post. You almost expect to see ‘carrier pigeon’ on the list.
Time spent: 6 minutes, although it could have been faster without the momentary temptation to enter the draw and those checkboxes.