Dealing with Air Malta is always quite frustrating, no matter what you need to do. After the ordeal of booking a flight, detailed in The Sorry State of Air Malta’s Website, it was finally time to catch that dreaded flight. This time, to mitigate potential issues with overbookings, I decided to check-in online.
So, I did what any reasonable person would do: I googled Air Malta’s online check-in, hoping to go straight there:
The first search result brought me to this form:
A friend of mine told me that the process is easy, and the form looked simple enough (as you can see above). What could possibly go wrong?
“Check-in System Error”, it said, “A system error has occurred. Please try again later.” Typical: they don’t tell you what the problem is, and you can try again as many times as you like, because it’s not going to work. Knowing Air Malta’s hatred of apostrophes, I tried my surname with and without the apostrophe, to no avail. I even tried to “Show Additional Options”:
Not only does “Show Additional Options” clear whatever you entered in the first two fields (so you’d have to type them in again if you wanted to go back to using the booking reference), but the 13-digit Ticket Number is nowhere to be found in the flight booking confirmation email.
Later, I figured out what the problem was. If you go to the Air Malta website and proceed to do the online check-in from there, you get to a completely different form which does actually work (except that when you get to the summary, it displays the wrong number of luggages):
What this probably means is that during some rebranding exercise, they set up a new online check-in form, but left the old and dysfunctional one in place, and Google still ranks that as number one.
It’s rather silly to assume that people will reach your website through its homepage. As it turns out, though, Air Malta are not alone. Just today, I wanted to find some recent news on the website of stockbrokers Rizzo, Farrugia & Co. (who, unlike Air Malta, I highly respect), so I did the same thing and googled it:
Clicking on the top result, I ended up here:
Even if you haven’t been to their website before, it’s pretty clear to see that the formatting is a bit of a mess (and doesn’t fit the style of the rest of the site), the dates are in the future, and the download links take you back to the same page. The reason for this is likely the same as with Air Malta’s online check-in: they had some old page that they abandoned in favour of new pages, and forgot to remove it. Or maybe it wasn’t an old page, but one that came back from the future!
To conclude: in the last article about Air Malta’s website, I highlighted the importance of empathy and understanding the journey that the user takes. Here, we’ve seen how the journey doesn’t always start at the homepage, so it’s important to (a) make sure that pages are accessible and functional even when accessed from search engines, and (b) take down any obsolete pages so that they don’t confuse users.
This article is part of The Sorry State of the Web series.