Olga Trošina has been with airBaltic for just over three years, but she has a lot to show for the relatively short amount of time that she has worked at the airline. As the newly appointed head of e-commerce, Trošina has been leading the overhaul of the airBaltic website, which was launched in an upgraded version in the middle of November.

How did your career path at airBaltic begin?

I started as an online marketing specialist, writing newsletters, creating banners and using other online marketing tools for the airline’s website. I was also involved in affiliate marketing and cooperated with some of the company’s online partners. After around a year-and-a-half, I was promoted to the position of online marketing supervisor. Later, I started to manage e-commerce projects, which is a more technically challenging branch of marketing. This marked the first stage of our extensive website upgrading project, which became and still is my main responsibility.

What does e-commerce entail?

At the e-commerce department we deal mainly with the company’s webpage, which includes its design and its functional features. For example, airBaltic recently launched flights to a new destination – Reykjavik. Our department has to make sure that the airBaltic.com website includes all possible flight options to this destination; that ticket prices and other flight-related information are correct, and that the website’s users can use it without facing any technical or other difficulties. We constantly upgrade the webpage, and our ultimate goal is to get more and more people to use our services through it. We also collaborate closely with other departments, such as revenue management, marketing, sales and, of course, IT. 

What has the new webpage project involved?

One primary goal was to make the website device-responsive, which means that it can now be accessed through various gadgets such as smartphones and tablets. If we want to keep up with the latest technological advancements, then this feature is a must-have, not merely a nice-to-have. [Laughs.] We want our customers to use our webpage with ease, no matter what device they are using to access it. Most of the main changes have been at the back end, so to speak, which means that they are not very noticeable on the surface. Nevertheless, these changes have definitely boosted the website’s efficiency. Loading speeds, for example, are now much quicker. 

Who decides what changes are needed?

Well, apart from the central goal of making the website device-responsive, we also take into account customers’ suggestions and requests. For example, we received requests to make it easier for passengers to calculate their total flight fee. Now on the booking page, customers see at the very first step what additional fees they may incur when choosing a particular flight, so they are in a position to make a fully informed and faster choice. I have been researching the way that the booking process is conducted on the websites of countless other airlines, and I have to say that in most of them this issue still remains – customers cannot clearly see what they will be paying for their ticket until practically the last stage of their booking, which makes it very difficult to compare the prices of flight tickets offered by different airlines. For example, in some cases the price that we list for a particular ticket might seem slightly higher than that of another airline, but often when you select the cheaper ticket, all kinds of hidden fees come up in the end. 

Can you name other new features that have become immediately visible to the customer?

We’ve developed a few usability features in the design of the website to help our customers understand the information clearly and quickly. For example, previously during the booking process, passengers sometimes weren’t sure if they had added an extra luggage item to only their departing flight, or to their return flight as well. We have noticeably improved the design for this feature so that all of the booking aspects are now clear. One can easily see what services one has added and how much they cost. One can also see where to click to add a specific feature. The booking process is now much more transparent and simple.

You launched the website’s revamped version in November. How have customers responded and what are you doing to continue upgrading the website?

This was only the first stage of the project. So far, we have introduced responsive design features on the homepage, in the booking process and in the checkin pages of the site. We will gradually continue to implement responsive design features on the rest of our website, including the information pages about luggage and ticket purchasing conditions. Since launching the new webpages, we have been actively asking for customer feedback. It is still very early to say much, but the general response has been very positive. People like the layout, and, of course, they are happy that the booking can be done comfortably from a mobile device. We have observed that the number of bookings made from mobile devices is constantly growing. Then again, our customers have always been divided into two fronts – those who enjoy and welcome any kind of change, and those who tend to resist change at the initial stage. We have thought about both and know that it is best to go slowly, without pushing forth drastic visible changes. But, of course, nobody minds a quicker and more comfortable booking process! [Laughs.]

Do you look at other sites for inspiration?

I have researched countless other airline homepages in order to see what works. Since we wish to follow the best industry practices, I’m doing as much research as possible. However, the more that I’ve educated myself by researching other homepages, the more I’ve noticed which things don’t work as well as might initially seem. Many features might look nice from the outside, but when you really put yourself in the shoes of a customer, you will soon enough stumble upon a difficulty and notice something that may not have been planned out well enough. Therefore, rather than borrowing some good features, we’ve seen many aspects of different websites that could be made to work better. We’ve taken note of these shortcomings and tried to avoid placing them in our website. Some design features are specific to certain regions where an airline operates, while others might apply to certain age groups. These considerations also have to be taken into account when introducing something new. 

What do you like most about working for an airline?

I enjoy the dynamics of the airline work environment. It is not for people who like a slow and calm pace in their professional life! You have to be ready at all times for a situation when anything can happen, with new issues to resolve at very short notice. It is never boring and there is always something to do. I truly enjoy this aspect of my work, even though most of the time, the deadline for a newly assigned task is “yesterday.” [Laughs.] I left for a peaceful fortnight at a beach just after the first part of the website project was completed. I am well-rested and happy to be back at work now, but one thing that I know for sure is that a good website is never completed! BO