March and April 2018 Local Cruises | From R3,525 pps*

Flight Bookings : Mango v Kulula v BA v SAA

Online flight booking engines are the front line in the war for passengers. Mess them up or (heaven forbid) if they're not working, and you are going to lose customers. Even subtle changes in colour can make a difference in conversion rates! Airlines put a lot of research into getting this right, carrying out tests of what results in better conversions, and fine-tuning.

In South Africa there are 4 major flight bookings engines - Mango Airlines, South African Airways, British Airways and Kulula Airlines. And before any airline guru points out that I've left out Airlink and SA Express, let me explain that this is because they use the SAA bookings engine.

If Bigger is Better then Kulula Wins

I'm not sure whether this is a coincidence, but the 2 full service carriers, SAA & British Airways, have compact booking engines, whereas the low cost carriers (Mango & Kulula) have wider flight booking engines. And the largest airline (in terms of passengers flown), British Airways, has the very smallest booking engine.

SAA Flight Bookings engine

British Airways flight bookings engine

The Mango flight bookings tool is the widest:

Mango flight bookings tool

Kulula has the largest booking engine.

Kulula bookings when neither Discovery Vitality or eBucks is selected

Mango has Most Options

All the airlines have items on their flight bookings systems, which may distract an ordinary person from doing a flight booking, and reduce conversions. Mango Airline has the longest list of options on its flight bookings tool, although they have been rather cleverly placed in a less easy to read font and background.



British Airways

South African Airways

Senior Citizen
Special Assistance
Group Bookings
Online Check-In
Travel Packages
Exact Dates/1-month low

Car Hire
Check-In Online
Manage Booking

Car Hire
Where we Fly
Disability Assistance
Children Alone

Flight Status
Promo Code
Group Bookings

Kulula's booking engine is the only one which prevents you from going to the next step if you have not selected one of the options (Discovery versus eBucks versus Neither).

SAA is odd-man out for Date Selections

South African Airways is the odd man out in terms of how the calendar dates are presented. All the other airlines have 2 calendar months which pop up when you click on the date. SAA has the option of using a drop-down menu or getting a 1 month calendar pop up. This may come down to personal preference, but I prefer the 2 month calendar pop-up.

On the other hand, all the airlines use drop-down menus for selecting the number of adults/children/infants.

Departure Cities

Mango & Kulula both use drop-down menus to select the departure and return cities. Mango has no defaults entered, whereas Kulula has a default of OR Tambo (makes sense as most people will fly from there). With SAA both cities must be typed in, with no default. British Airways defaults onto the from city (it seems to have cottoned on to the fact that I'm from Cape Town, probably from past behaviour or IP address). The "to" city needs to be filled in.

Perfect Booking Engine hasn't arrived yet

Overall no booking engine stands head and shoulders above the rest. If Mango Airlines didn't have the plethora of rider options, I would go with them. Kulula's main stumbling block is it forcing to select the Discovery/eBucks/Neither option - I'm willing to bet that there's a significant number of people who have to be reminded to select it after clicking "search". South African Airways' treatment of calendar options isn't as good as the other 3 airlines. With British Airways and SAA there is an extra step at the start, having to tell it that I'm from South Africa and I want the screen to render in english.

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