BA Inflight: Taking Off

Designing a concept microsite to enhance the inflight experience for British Airways passengers.

Feb 3, 2017 · 6 min read

Project 3 General Assembly (concept app)
Team: J Mawhinney, Yulka, Myself
Client: British Airways
My role: UX Researcher / UX Designer
Duration: 1 week
Methods: 1–2–1 Interviews, focus group research/testing, Sketch App prototyping, user testing with clickable prototype using Invision app, contextual testing.

The Brief

To recap on my previous article, the brief was to make in-flight services available to passengers on their personal electronic devices.

Currently in-flight services are:

  • Manual
  • Depend on built-in technology
  • Abstract

Design Deliverable

A web-hosted application that adheres to the British Airways visual style guide, we therefore designed a high-fidelity prototype that demonstrates the key functionality of the posited web app.

An illustration of how we incorporated the web app into the existing suite of products

How will it help the business

  • Greater levels of customer in-flight satisfaction (increased price elasticity of demand and higher customer satisfaction scores)
  • Cut expenses by lowering food waste
  • More efficient service

The web application is most most sensible option in order to allow all passengers regardless of device to access the inflight services. In addition it does not require a download which was a point of friction in existing airline applications (cited by 27.5% of interviewees surveyed) and does not need to locally host material in the way a native app does. For BA it represents a considerable saving to building out native apps whose design, maintenance and frequent updating (thanks to the dynamic nature of the entertainment and shopping content) is labour intensive).

Objectives / Functions: What the design will actually DO, & how it will function?

Having already completed our survey, user interviews, personas and experience map we were in a good position to judge which features would be necessary for Alexa to be engaged, nay DELIGHTED!

  • Ability to watch movies/TV series
  • Ability to read travel magazine
  • Games/audio/video content for children
  • Responsive design
  • Ability to pre-order a meal with special requirements
  • Ability to order/buy food and drinks
  • Ability to view flight information

The W’s & H:


Our primary user is a busy professional who flies frequently both for business and leisure.

When: will the interaction occur between user and design?

The responsive web app will be used by British Airways customers prior to their flight to pre-order meals and pre-plan their in-flight entertainment. It can also be used during the flight for accessing entertainment (e.g. movies, destination guide) and the food and drinks menu.

Where: does the interaction occur?

The interaction will occur pre-flight, which can be anywhere (user’s home, office, on the go), at an airport and on board an aircraft.

Why (a few times over):

British Airways customers will use the app because they want to pre-order meals and pay for food/drinks in advance. They can also plan their onboard viewing and download the content 24hours before their flight if they’d like to start viewing on the Gatwick Express or in the airport lounge whilst waiting to board. On the board of an aircraft they will use the app because they can enjoy the entertainment and check out the food and drinks menu.

How: will the design help the user?

British Airways customers will be able to pre-plan their in-flight entertainment by adding movies, TV series, etc to the planner and buy food/drinks via the web app.

Responsive design allows to use the app on any electronic device: laptops, tablets, mobile devices and doesn’t require installing anything.

Alexa is our primary persona as laid out in full in my previous post but a quick recap:

Design studio

From our testing we know that food and drink ordering and pre-planning entertainment will be in our design but if we look back to the results of our research we see that people have 2 primary uses for this app:

  • Plan their experience
  • Enjoy the in-flight experience

Key user research takeaways:

  • Only things that have to do with the user’s flight are relevant, they have other apps to do the rest of their entertainment/shopping tasks. i.e. do not expect them to open an airline app outside of normal touch points
  • Entertainment is the biggest draw into the the inflight services
  • When people order food/drinks they want to know when to expect it

Take a gander at 2 sets of our initial sketches that we timeboxed here:

From here we took an iterative approach to the web apps evolution, from:

1. Rapid paper prototypes

2. Digital wireframes

3. Visual design mockups

Testing was crucial at every stage, you can see how the features shift in location, size, prominence and even, existence!
As you can see we built out a whole lot of screens…

Focussing on the two areas of critical importance:

Inflight Entertainment (IFE):

Food and Drink ordering:


If you want to see how Alexa can pre-plan her journey and use the in-flight entertainment system, and how the app solves the pain points view the prototype demo: HERE!

Next steps

  • Partnership with BBC iPlayer / on demand streaming service users repeatedly expressed a desire to continue watching their favourite series or to catch up on trending ones that they don’t normally get the time to watch. The majority of users surveyed had accounts with BBC iPlayer, whose brand also aligns to that of BA and Netflix. Account features support interrupted session pause & play, tracking of viewing history, recommendations and downloadable content all of which are desired in inflight viewing as they are in at home viewing.
  • Partner with hardware firm to provide at seat tablets e.g. Samsung For state of the art inflight hardware at minimal cost to BA and greater UX inflight with pre-downloaded content available. Mobile tablets also allow for easier repair, upgrade and greater viewing comfort as users can move them around as desired to suit their seating position. Furthermore they offer an advanced interface for gaming interaction and can support multiple applications.
  • Games for adults were relatively highly demanded. Passengers however, expect customer grade games as they are used to on their mobile devices. It would be recommended to partner with existing market leaders in the app store, if a tablet partnership was established this would be easy to implement.
  • Additional functionality identified in our feature prioritisation exercise from interviews included:
  • Integrated transport reservation system
  • Interactive chats
  • Multiplayer inflight gaming
  • Bill splitting on inflight bistro

Written by


Inveterate Nomad, UX Researcher & Front End Dev

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade