Website of the week: United Airlines – 26/07/06

Blue, black and white are the trio of colours on the United Airlines website. Unadorned, and with a tinge of corporate gravity, this website manages to steer clear of appearing lacklustre due to its exclamation points and other hearty gestures in the text

Website of the week: United Airlines

United Airlines operates more than 3,700 flights a day to more than 210 US domestic and international destinations. The airline’s duty free operation is run by Miami-based Duty Free World, a leader in the airline duty free management industry serving over 15 million passengers each year.

We wanted to review the carrier’s duty free shopping website but we had trouble finding it. That’s because it’s buried some four clicks away from the home page. But once you get there, it’s worth the hunt.


Blue, black and white are the trio of colours on the United Airlines website. Unadorned, and with a tinge of corporate gravity, this website manages to steer clear of appearing lacklustre due to its exclamation points and other hearty gestures in the text. Although the site doesn’t boast cutting-edge design, it holds its own with simple, sharp contrasts and likeable layout.

Content and usability

While not upfront in terms of its location, the duty free shopping website is literally bold. The homepage features, in bold text, a four-step guide to enjoying the perks of inflight shopping:

1. Look:
Browse through your Duty Free catalog; sit back, enjoy your flight and save money while you shop duty free.

2. Listen:
Your flight attendant will make an announcement when in-flight shopping begins.

3. Shop:
For your convenience, your flight attendant will bring the Duty Free cart to your seat. Feel free to ask the flight attendant to show you the products you’re interested in. If, by chance you miss the Duty Free service, check with a flight attendant.

4 Enjoy:
Enjoy the convenience of paying for your gift in one of several ways: credit card, traveler’s cheques, or cash.

It’s all nice and simple. Although there is no online pre-order system, the airline heartily embraces the concept of duty free shopping and this is evident throughout the site.

Crucially, United offers shoppers a price guarantee with up to 50% off US domestic retail prices. “United’s Duty Free Price Guarantee takes the risk out of inflight shopping” the company announces.

The homepage loudly displays promotions, brand names such as Givenchy, Gucci and Dior, and three appealing perfume adverts for Ralph Lauren’s Polo Black, Givenchy’s Lovely Prism travel retail exclusive fragrance and the current inflight brochure cover featuring Calvin Klein’s Euphoria. Bold headings such as “˜Buy Duty Free and Save’ and “˜Price Guarantee’ really catch the shopper’s eye.

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To celebrate the launch of our new Travel Retail Web-Wide Index, each week we put the spotlight on one of the growing array of dedicated travel retail websites or web sections. Click here or on the image to read the index.

The product menu sits clearly on the left-hand side to draw in shoppers. Even if it’s not the first noticeable element of the site due to its minuscule type size, it’s still an obvious feature. Fragrances, Electronics, Tobacco, Coffret, Make up, Jewelry, Watches, Sunglasses, Kids, Gifts, Travel Accessories, Liquors and Promotions make up the product categories.

Each product is listed vertically with a small picture and price in US dollars. Clicking on the picture gives you an enlarged image and brief description. You’re told how many items are included in the list. Each category consists of a maximum of 24 items each, though the Kids option has only two items. The zesty “˜Duty Free Shopping on board!’ tagline sits at the top of each page with gusto.

Fragrance, Coffrets and Watches each split up into men’s and women’s lines, which means you don’t have to trawl through pages and pages to find what you want.

Promotions offers a Travel Logic Sports Watch priced at US$15 for every onboard purchase of US$150 or more.

A search engine is also available with a note underneath: “Search by brands like GIVENCHY, GUCCI, DIOR”.

The homepage is also home to Duty Free Allowances, Payment Options and About Duty Free.

Duty free liquor and tobacco allowances are given for 25 countries with brief guidelines/restrictions.

Payment options including credit cards, traveller’s cheques and cash are offered.

About Duty Free informs shoppers about what they are entitled to; What is Duty Free Shopping and Up to 50% off US retail domestic prices are included in the brief introduction to duty free.

Navigation is easy due to a good layout and simple structure.

What we like:
Pro-duty free spirit and zest
User-friendly navigation
Simple and effective product showcase

What we think needs improving/ adding:
Make it easy to find the duty free shopping section on the main United website
Design tweak

Visit United Airlines.

COMING SOON: The Moodie Report Travel Retail Worldwide Web Awards.

Sponsored by P&G Prestige Products

Which websites offer the best service to consumers? Which are most user-friendly? Which are the most stylish? And which, crucially, offer the greatest incentive to shop?

Every year we will judge, through a combination of industry polling, consumer opinion and specialist judges, who is doing most to wow travellers on the web. International and regional awards.

The main award – Travel Retail Website of the Year – will be unveiled at this year’s ‘Oscars’ of the industry: the Frontier Awards in Cannes. More details coming soon.


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