Which airline has the most painful booking process? We put them to the test

Ryanair Easy Jet British Airways Flybe Jet2 Aer Lingus Wizz Air Tui book a short trip - Bradley Caslin/iStock/Getty Images

Ryanair Easy Jet British Airways Flybe Jet2 Aer Lingus Wizz Air Tui book a short trip – Bradley Caslin/iStock/Getty Images

From start to finish, the flying experience is something you have to endure rather than enjoy this summer. Prices are high, delays are frequent and queues are inevitable. Even booking a flight is difficult, with airlines selling upsells at every turn and a distinct lack of clarity about what is included in the headline price.

A decade ago, Telegraph Travel compared the biggest short-haul airlines operating from the UK to see what makes finding a flight the most time-consuming. At the time, Ryanair was the bottom of the pack, forcing customers to make 20 mouse clicks to get to the payment screen, due to the many ‘opt-out’ offers and add-ons (there was even a ‘game to win your turn free” game that required dodging.) So we decided to repeat the test to see if things have improved, unlike other elements of flight.

In part, they have. Although Ryanair still requires 12 clicks, the streamlined site has something, with many of the extras (car hire, fast-track boarding, crisps) reduced to fewer pages and switched to an opt-in format, rather than an opt-in- format. out. Nevertheless, the increase in fees for hand luggage has led to price structures that are often unclear and can easily confuse passengers. Also, the 10 airlines we reviewed vary widely in how user-friendly their websites are, with British Airways offering a relatively calm experience and Jet2 more of a hellscape.

For each airline, we selected a popular route and then timed how long it took to find and book a round-trip flight for a weekend trip in August, including the number of clicks required to secure the flight. Not included in the number of clicks are important steps, such as the drop-down menus to enter passenger details and clicks needed to find the best price. The prices apply to one adult traveling with one checked luggage and paying by credit card.

Ryanair (London to Barcelona)

Flight price: £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-nonsense airline doesn’t miss the chance to flog everything from airport parking spaces to Pringles. There’s a particularly hard sell on carry-on bags, with warnings of €69.99 fines if the small size is breached – which seems pretty mean when you’ve polished off checked bags.

Time spent: 8 minutes. I was put off by the airline’s attempt to pass Girona off as Barcelona, ​​but once the banana skin was avoided it was a fairly quick process. You have to create a Ryanair account, which adds another layer of admin, and the cabin bag conundrum takes some time to figure out.

British Airways (London-Amsterdam)

Flight price: £264.22

How many clicks? 5. The flag carrier may not have covered itself in glory of late, but when it comes to booking a flight, it has upped its game in recent years. The process requires no account creation or opting out, and the site is aesthetically pleasing (no pop-ups). It’s just a subtle nudge to add a charity donation before paying, something passengers may be more inclined to do after not being upsold on every occasion.

The time taken: 4 minutes. In theory, booking a short-haul flight with British Airways is quick and easy. What a shame it’s literally impossible to do it from Heathrow for now.

EasyJet (London-Amsterdam)

Flight price: £250.62

How many clicks? 12. Booking a flight with EasyJet feels like an interview. It will have a lot of information, from your age (are you over 18?) to your reason for travel. It also requires an opt-out of marketing and “partner” emails and makes you confirm that you’ve already purchased travel insurance (while you’re trying to whip up coverage). The only bright spot is the user-friendly price calendar that makes it easy to find the lowest prices.

The time taken 8 minutes, with a subsequent feeling of fatigue.

Aer Lingus (London-Dublin)

Flight price? £226.35

How many clicks? 7. Booking flights with Aer Lingus is a relatively pleasant experience, with a useful drop-down list that allows filtering by departure time or price and no nonsense when it comes to cabin bags (everyone is allowed to weigh 10kg). However, they lose points for a dated “tick this box if you don’t want to receive marketing emails”. Even Ryanair has mostly done away with this trick.

Total time taken: 6 minutes, but it would have been faster had it not wanted my phone number to be a landline and split between two boxes. It also offered to send a receipt via text message – for the bargain price of £2.

Flybe (London-Amsterdam)

Flight price: £305.75

How many clicks? 8. Relaunched Flybe has returned with a fairly user-friendly website. There are cabin bag allowance warnings (no more than 7kg) but not a hard sell, unlike others.

The time taken 10 minutes. The longest on our list, but only because it strangely required passport details to be provided upon purchase – wait until a desperate search around the house.

Jet2 (London-Faro)

Flight price: £344

How many clicks? 6. Although it only takes a few literal clicks to get to the payment page, the Jet2 website experience is dismal. From the gaudy red design to the cynical attempts to “guarantee” usually free cabin bags for £4, it leaves a bad taste. And that’s before it tries to flog you an anemic-looking piri-piri chicken on the plane for £10.50.

The time taken 7 minutes. Admittedly, I spent some time browsing all the meal options – perhaps the gluten-free roast chicken dinner en route to Faro would be a welcome addition?

Wizz Air (London-Budapest)

Flight price: £409

How many clicks? 7. Technically an OK experience, as much of the sales attempt is kept on one page, but Wizz can’t resist tricks like making users click “no insurance” and “No, I don’t want to save money” when they decline membership of a “travel club”, which feels dated to say the least.

The time taken: 8 minutes. The required registration slows the process down somewhat, as does the disillusionment of paying £400 for flights to Budapest.

Vueling (London-Barcelona)

Flight price: £362.95

How many clicks? 6. The Spanish budget airline provides a pleasant booking experience, with points for the obvious price markings on seat selection and the well-signposted chance to flag if you have special requirements. The usual suspects (car hire, insurance, lounge access) are all kept on one page which can easily be skipped. However, the attempt to whip up baggage insurance “in case of delay” right before payment did not inspire confidence.

The time taken 5 minutes. There was a slight delay in assessing how much clothing I could wear to the airport to avoid checking a bag that felt destined to be lost.

Norwegian (London-Copenhagen)

Flight price: £290.10

How many clicks? 7. A confusing website, mainly due to the fare categories (low-cost, low-cost plus and flex), with the cheapest option strangely unavailable for many flights – a move even the usual no-frills suspects don’t tend to pull. Like Aer Lingus, they also kindly offer to send a purchase receipt via text message for £2.

Time use: 8 minutes – most of which was spent figuring out why I had to book the unnecessary “flex” fare.

Tui (London – Majorca)

Flight price £367

How many clicks? 10. Tui loses points for deleting solo travelers – the default selection of two passengers must be changed manually.

The number of clicks increases dramatically near the finish line, when passengers are asked to tick individual boxes if they do not wish 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 instant temptation to enter the prize draw and those tick boxes.

Have you encountered any outrageous airline booking requirements (eg charge £2 for a text message receipt)? Tell us about it in the comments below

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