Ryanair’s confirmation eMail deliberately confuses paying customers.

Alexander Beck
6 min readMay 9, 2018

It’s fairly conventional to send a confirmation eMail after a customer has purchased something.
A confirmation eMail has the job of confirming everything in the purchase, so that the customer knows all is well, and can then relax.
But in the case of Ryanair, their confirmation eMail led to old-fashioned confusion.
If you run / design / work on an online shop, make sure you’re not guilty of the same nonsense.

Why send a confirmation eMail?

The thing with eCommerce is that customers buy within a virtual space… there’s no haptic, there’s no real dialogue with a salesperson, purchasing is stretched over several screens, there’s no walking out the store with goods and, consequently, there’s no real feeling of having purchased something.

A conventional way to address these inherent weaknesses is to send a confirmation eMail.

And that eMail is expected to arrive within seconds, after checking out.

We’re flying again

My brother’s getting married at the end of summer and we’ll be flying over for the wedding.

So I looked at flights, hoping to find one where we don’t need to be at the airport too early in the morning.

Flying from Berlin is easy… two airports, both of which are easy to reach.

But the wedding will take place in the Highlands, in a wee village… far from any airport. And the prospect of getting up at the crack of dawn on the morning after the wedding celebrations, well… that’s just wrong.

In the end, I found that Ryanair offered both outbound and inbound flights at civilised times.

So I started the booking process.

Book the extras, people!

I booked four seats and chose where we’d like to sit, both outbound and inbound.

Although we’re only going for a couple of days, I added additional luggage (two suitcases), because we’ll be taking extra clothes to wear at the wedding.

And I booked priority seating, because it makes getting on easier with a family of four.

Both of these things cost extra.

Then I added a car to my bill, using one of their associated partners.

Of course, I booked insurance for the car, because if you don’t have insurance the rental guys’ll find a scratch that, in turn, means that a bit of the car needs to be removed and repainted at a cost of £80 (currently €90 or $110)… I know this because it happened to me and the rep told me it’s because I didn’t take out fully comprehensive insurance (whatever?!… different story).

Then I charged the whole lot to my credit card.

You’ve got mail!

Within seconds the confirmation eMail arrived.

The eMail is made up of three separate blocks. And I was instantly confused.

Important information was missing, which is always unsettling… and causes an instant WTF?! moment (jargon: negative UX).

The issues with the three blocks are, as follows:

#1 — The Header

The dominant hero image with the name “FamilyPlus” is unclear: is it an ad or a confirmation of purchase… it seems to be more decorative than anything else and requires from me that I recollect what I booked and what I didn’t book (jargon: cognitive load).

In my case, I looked immediately at the eMail and had loads of info in my short-term memory, but what if I first looked several hours later, perhaps in the evening after work.

That big, fat button in capital letters to “CHECK IN NOW” is clickable but it leads to Ryanair’s website where it says,”Check-in opens: 18 Jun” (that’s more than six weeks away).

BTW, I’m not a linguist but it’s interesting that Ryanair can’t agree on whether passengers check-in or whether they check in.

#2 — The Body

Here are the details about the flight, both outbound and inbound.

Then the passengers are listed individually, including reserved seat and baggage allowance.

This list closes with “Travel Extras” which contains no extras… and instead has up-selling options.

The extras that I booked are scattered throughout list, appearing next to the passengers.

The body is wrapped up with the total sum I paid for the four of us.

Yet, it is unclear just what the total sum at the end covers — what’s included and what isn’t.

#3 — The Closer

This part of the eMail is the cross-selling and up-selling bit.

Ryanair would like to sell more stuff to me and is a repeat of all the sections that they offered to me when I purchased only a matter of minutes before.

As if, maybe two minutes later my itinerary had changed so much that I suddenly needed a hotel.

They’re offering me a rental car — wtf?! didn’t I book one?!

And they’re offering me priority seating — wtf?! didn’t I book that too?!

So after I frantically double check on the prices, by going back to the website and selecting the flight one more time, and adding additional luggage, and adding priority seating, and booking a car, I see that they didn’t f*ck up… they simply didn’t give the right information to make my life comfortable.

Low hanging fruit for Ryanair

All three blocks can be improved with easy-to-implement changes, as follows:

#1 — The Header — revisited

Remove the hero image with the name “FamilyPlus” which is unclear.

Re-word the big, fat button to “Check in after 18 June”, or whatever date is appropriate.

#2 — The Body — revisited

Keep the details about the flight, both outbound and inbound.

Keep the passengers listed individually with their seat number.

Move all extras like additional baggage and priority seating in the section “Travel Extras”.

Add a line per item above the total at the foot of this section covering prices:
a. the four tickets and their price
b. the additional luggage and its price
c. the priority seating and its price
d. the rental car and its price
e. car insurance and its price
f. then the total

#3 — The Closer — revisited

Remove all the crap about rental cars for someone who has already booked a car (duh!).

Don’t offer priority seating to someone who has booked that option.

Why should these changes be made?

Never forget, only 5% — 8% of the adult population are computer savvy. Yes! On a good day that’s 8% at the most who are able to perform simple tasks — read the recent report from the NN Group, dated end of 2016.

So, don’t make your customers work more than necessary.

Keep it simple and easy to digest.

It’s not always just a question of convenience, price and availability (although they do have a lot going for them).

There’s a great article here about the two critical moments in UX being the most intense one and the one at the end.

Unfortunately, the end moment in my journey with Ryanair was thoroughly annoying and cost me a considerable amount of time (and nerves).

The customer is still king… treat her/him accordingly.
And respect their time.


Thanks for the read!

If you would like me to look at your website or app, just shoot me an email at beck (at) beck-button (dot) de or go to the contact page on my website or, if you prefer, connect via Linked-In.



Alexander Beck

Data inspired UX to increase conversion & decrease bounce rate. Reach me on http://beck-button.de