From argh to ahhh: Introducing the new Hawaiian Airlines app

by: | May 8, 2019

As much as we all love a good getaway, air travel can be stressful. Just consider this research:

  • A survey by Airlines for America asked travelers how satisfied they were with their overall travel experience. Only 35% of travelers said they were very satisfied. In particular, the survey found that long ticketing and security lines cause anxiety.
  • A 2018 survey from Skift found that many flyers simply want better information to improve the travel experience, with 54% of respondents asking for real-time, accurate travel notifications.

The opportunity to address these challenges was one reason we were incredibly excited about working with Hawaiian Airlines on its recently released iOS and Android apps. Another reason: When we first started working with HA in 2017, the company’s legacy web-based app — which had 1-star reviews on both Google Play and Apple’s App store — was not living up to the company’s remarkable brand as a premier travel experience. But simply solving the app’s technical issues wasn’t enough.

The Hawaiian Airlines and ArcTouch teams wanted the new app to alleviate day-of-travel stress — helping travelers leave their worries behind as they headed to paradise.

iOS App Store ArcTouch mobile app development and design

Laser focused on the day-of-travel experience

We’ve seen it many times: A development team builds a complicated app so bloated with features that its purpose becomes muddled and the app fails to do anything well. In contrast, for this project, our teams were laser-focused on the execution of the key features that solved two important problems: Reducing the wait times (and stress) during the check-in process and using real-time updates to usher people from check-in to their final destination.

Those features include:

  • Easy, reliable check-in: The app helps passengers check in quickly, minimizing ticket lines for those that need to see an agent. In the iOS version, you can also store boarding passes in Apple Wallet. And, importantly, these are accessible even when offline.
  • Real-time flight updates: After check-in, passengers receive notifications of any changes in the flight status — i.e. gate changes or delays. Those changes are also reflected automatically in the digital boarding passes — even those downloaded to digital wallets.
  • An escort at every step of the journey: The app offers airport maps, including turn-by-turn walking directions, to help people find their gates or baggage claim. It also features an integrated chat, so you can ask questions directly to the Hawaiian Airlines’ customer service team. And once at their destination, passengers can launch ride-sharing services Uber and Lyft from directly within the app.
  • In-flight entertainment: The app also includes in-flight entertainment, allowing passengers to ease into their vacation, and put aside any lingering air travel stress by escaping with movies or music on their own device (for flights that support it).

By focusing on these core features for launch, the app has delivered dramatic improvements in app store ratings for both iOS (now at 3.5 stars) and Android (now at 4.0 stars). And now that we’ve nailed the basics, our teams are already working on adding additional features.

“Working with ArcTouch, we defined a very focused, key set of app features to improve the day-of-travel experience,” said Jason Ross, Hawaiian Airlines manager of online and mobile experience. “I’m incredibly proud of how our collective teams maintained rigorous focus, and then executed on that vision for this first release.”

Personalized home screen depending on your travel stage

One of our favorite aspects of the app is how the personalized home screen changes depending upon where you are in your day-of-travel experience. As your flight approaches, the app’s home screen shows you details about the flight (time, date) and will let you know when you’re able to check in. Once you check in, the home screen changes and offers a link to the flight details screen, where you can manage your flight details, and view, change or upgrade your seat. And when you arrive at your destination, the screen changes again, and shows the baggage claim information for your flight. In addition, the home screen image changes depending on your destination (there are 41 different images, one for each location where Hawaiian Airlines flies).
Hawaiian airlines app personalized homescreen

Xamarin cross-platform app FTW

As one of the top Xamarin developers in the country, we’re big fans of Microsoft’s technology, which makes building and managing cross-platform mobile apps much more efficient — yet still offers native app experiences. There are many reasons we choose Xamarin development for our projects. In this case, one of the main reasons is that Hawaiian Airlines leverages Microsoft enterprise services across the organization — and the company’s in-house development team has deep experience with Microsoft’s technology stack.

By building in Xamarin and working closely with Hawaiian Airlines’ developers, our Xamarin development team will be able to efficiently manage the application over the course of its lifecycle.

Working in paradise

We always enjoy working with our clients to solve business problems through great mobile apps and digital products. But, in this case, getting excited about working with Hawaiian Airlines was … well, it was easy. Especially when I, as the product manager, was given the opportunity to work side-by-side with the Hawaiian Airlines team at the company’s headquarters in Honolulu. In fact, four members of our app development team have spent significant time working at HQ. Working alongside our client team members is always beneficial. It makes it easier to solve technical problems or understand the business challenges of the day. And don’t get me wrong — we worked hard — but working in the paradise of Hawaii was a nice bonus.

Try out the new Hawaiian Airlines app today

Now that we’ve launched this first release, we’re hard at work adding new features to the app. Try it out (for Android or iOS) — and let us know what you think! Caveat: The app works best when you’re traveling to (or within) Hawaii, which I’d highly recommend :).