Singapore Airlines (SIA) has launched a new website, but is making the transition from old to new gradually to avoid the problems that ensued during the last overhaul four years ago.
The website had to be taken down for more than an hour then because of software bugs after it was rolled out on May 22, 2011. Months later, customers continued to face problems when booking flights or retrieving flight and travel information.
To avoid teething problems this time, SIA launched a beta website - still in the development stage - while continuing to offer customers the current version.
SIA has learnt well from the previous website redesign, said associate professor of marketing Seshan Ramaswami of the Singapore Management University.
"Even if the changes are supposedly for the better, there is a certain amount of inconvenience in having to relearn how to go through the site... So, it is a great idea to let consumers grow into the system slowly," he said.
While noting that SIA will have to switch completely to the new site at some point, having both for an interim period is a very customer-friendly idea, he said.
SIA spokesman Nicholas Ionides told The Straits Times that the website revamp, which started about two months ago, will be rolled out in phases this year and part of next year.
He said: "We have placed the customer at the centre of this redesign project, and the delivery of the new website in a beta environment allows for continual tweaks and enhancements to improve the user experience and design, based on feedback from our customers."
SIA said it is working with several vendors on the revamp, but declined to name them.
Most travellers who tried the new version said they like the less cluttered homepage, which also has a bigger font size. It is also user-friendly and easy to navigate, they said.
Mr Sim Kok Chwee, an aviation enthusiast and freelance writer who travels regularly on different carriers, said the website now has a lot of useful information, such as the seat layout for SIA aircraft, a world clock, a currency converter, weather information and immigration information for different cities.
"Under the plan-and-book function, there is also a travel guide for each destination with a list of hotels, restaurants, events happening and even suggested itineraries. This is very useful," the 54-year-old said.
"It is also stated clearly which flights are operated by SIA and which by partner or codeshare carriers. For many other airlines, this information is not available when making a booking."
However, marketing executive Jenny Lee, 26, was less impressed. She said: "The old and new look the same to me."