How to Make an Airline App like Ryanair in 2020 | Process & Cost
Learn how to create a successful mobile application for airlines like Ryanair, and check out how much it costs. In this article, you will find all the crucial information that you should know before developing your airline app.
How to make an airline app like Ryanair? How much does a Ryanair-like app cost? If you want to know the answers, you are in the right place. This article will cover topics like:
- Mobile applications for airlines – overview
- What do airlines get from the mobile platform?
- Why is Ryanair’s app the perfect example?
- The 7 main steps of the airline app development process
- Key features of an airline app like Ryanair
- Technology Stack for an airline app like Ryanair
- Time & cost estimation of an airline app
- Challenges in airline app development & our recommendations
- Wrap up
If you already know how to make an airline app and how much it costs, we recommend you to check on how to choose the best mobile app development company for your digital project.
Mobile applications for airlines – overview
Did you ever book a flight? Did you like how that was done? Ryanair, WizzAir and other airlines try more and more to tempt you with new technologies to raise their profits and they do it right. Planes and airports are full of new technical solutions, like internet access on the deck or a virtual assistant at the airport hall.
However, can we say the same about airlines in the mobile sphere?
If we will look at the Google Play Store or Apple App Store, there are plenty of Ryanair-like apps, but their quality varies a lot. Some of them are just pure pleasure to use but, on the other hand, others are useless and frustrating. Nevertheless, people download and use them.
What do airlines get from the mobile platform?
Let’s face it. From a business perspective, the main goal of the app is to make profits. In these apps, the flight’s bookings are the main source of earnings. However, there are some less obvious profits too.
These apps contain many other features, such as online check-in, which relieves the airport service and airline call center. Another example is the possibility to manage reservations, which provide users the ability to buy extra seats or baggage. These are, of course, other slices of the profits cake.
The airline mobile app can also add additional features, usually not available on any other platform, like:
- Accurate localization, which helps to show more exact solutions, such as auto-filling the nearest airport as a departure location or even navigation within the airports, if it supports indoor maps;
- Push notifications, which makes users better informed and encourages them to use the app more often;
- Mobile wallet, which helps the users during the payment process, as well as to store tickets, right on their phones;
- Integration with device sensors such as a camera, to scan and recognize ID cards to autofill data;
- Augmented Reality (AR), which extends the app’s features to the real world, showing information over a view generated; from the camera. Let’s think about such a fancy example when you are standing in the plane and the app shows where your seat is located on your camera, so there’s no need to search for seat numbers;
- and much more…
If you want to build an airline app like Ryanair successfully, you need to understand that offering your clients a unique experience is essential for building a stronger attachment to your brand.
Why is Ryanair’s app the perfect example?
As you’ve likely noticed from the title and the earlier paragraphs, we have mentioned a lot about the Ryanair app and you can think about why we chose this app. There are many airline apps, branded by similar famous brands, but Ryanair’s is well-designed and based on the reports, as well as nearly 800k installs, it is the most popular airline app in 2020 so far. It has also thousands of reviews with a nearly 5-star rating on the App Store.
This all shows that it is one of the most popular airline apps in the world and a perfect example to analyze airline apps. So, that’s why everyone wants to know how to make an airline app like Ryanair.
Airline app development process – 7 main steps
Let’s assume the situation, where we are an airline corporation with a completely functional website. Clients use it to book flights and manage reservations, so it is fully connected to third-party providers which deliver solutions for checking availability and booking flights, managing previously-created reservations, accessing loyalty program and many more.
This is a very important assumption because the mobile app is usually fully functional when it is connected with the backend. The app is lightweight and often just shows the user interface and sends API requests in the right order. It is a quite common combination where the backend produces a larger part of the work.
Thanks to this, we can focus on the application, which is usually an addition to the working solution. Ryanair had their system before, so answering the question of how to build an app like Ryanair won’t be too complicated.
Many people think that creating a mobile app comes down to just development. However, from a business standpoint, it has some more steps that every app owner should know, such as:
- Clarifying the vision – the app which we are going to create should be well-defined. Without this, it will be hard to explain what we want;
- Choosing a partner – we need someone who will help us to create this application and, in our interest, it is best to outsource it to a software house or hire developers to our company.
- Wireframes & design – before the developer starts his or her work, they need to have a well-designed user interface and flows in the app;
- Project kick-off & setup – this is a start point of development, where we get to know what kind of technologies will be used and plan the first process iteration (choosing the Technology Stack – I write about it below);
- Development – here is the great part where we see how our app is starting to become real;
- Release preparation – the app is now done but we still need to prepare some legal information, press announcements and check the final version of the app;
- App maintenance – after the release, the app will probably have some bugs to fix and new features to add, so we need some maintainers to implement this.
We should note that these steps don’t just cover how to create a mobile app for airlines, but also show the development process of every app, from the idea to time after release. If you want to learn more about them, check out the mobile app development process guide.
How to make an airline app like Ryanair: key features
As you could notice earlier, I mentioned a lot of possible features and it is time to wrap them up. We could think that the airline app may not be so big but it is huge with, containing multiple flows and many screens.
The most important and valuable feature in the app. Thanks to this, we are getting new clients on board and generating profits. The flow for booking doesn’t just involve selecting a flight, as it has multiple other steps. Users have to fill up their passenger information and buy some ancillaries, like seats, extra baggage or insurance. They can also pay with different payment solutions, such as credit cards, miles or even don’t have to pay at the moment, choosing to pay later.
After a successful reservation, the user may want to update their data or check the flight details and this is the place where to do this. It is also possible to select and buy seats and additional baggage, pay for the unpaid reservation and manage notifications about flights. Paid reservations can be changed to another date or with the different cabin class for a small fee. They can also be canceled completely, with a refund.
Short before the flight, users can check-in. Usually, they could do this at the airport before baggage control, but nowadays it is possible online. When the check-in process starts, users get a notification. After that, they fill up their passport information, are noticed about dangerous goods and are given the last opportunity to select and buy seats (rather than system-chosen seats). After a successful check-in, users get boarding passes in a special mobile format, which can be added to the mobile wallet or be visible just in the app, presenting QR code to scan at the airport.
Many airlines offer some kind of loyalty program. Thanks to this, users can get rewards for multiple flights and journeys with the same company. Usually, customers get points, commonly known as Airmiles, which are exchangeable on gadgets, access to lounges and even free flights.
Under the loyalty program, there are many functions like a miles calculator, buying and transferring miles and claiming miles. All of these features are connected with one major – a user account, which is another big element of the app.
Flight status & watch
A slightly less important feature, but one that is regularly available in airline apps, is flight status. Thanks to this, users can see live information about upcoming and airborne flights. This information includes departure and arrival date, delays, terminal, and gate numbers or even live preview of the flight on a map. Additionally, each flight can be added to the watch list and the user will get notifications about status changes.
Many airline apps aren’t just for flight bookings, as they also offer other services. So, we can reserve a taxi after our flight or rent a car, book a hotel room or even buy tickets for local attractions. Some of these apps can even show these services on camera in AR to help you not get lost after the flight. If you want to learn how to build an app like Ryanair, you have to think about all the needs users have that are connected to your flights. That’s what they do.
Focusing on the main features
As you’ve likely notice, there are quite a lot of features to be implemented but it is important to choose the must-have ones to make the app live as soon as possible. As we said earlier, in the case of an airline app, flight booking is the most important feature, and, with just that, the app can go live with version 1.0.
Other features, like managing reservations, check-in and loyalty programs could be included in subsequent versions, so we end up with version 4.0. Flight status and other features can be the next versions but let’s face it, it is just nice to have elements and their main purpose is to attract users.
Technology Stack used to build an airline app like Ryanair
The technical matters of the app are usually not truly important for app owners, but it is good to know even brief information about that. Before the start of development, we have to answer some questions, like which platform are we going to support, what is the lowest system version or do we use native or hybrid technology. All of the answers have positive implications, as well as drawbacks.
Let’s focus on our app. At first, we have to choose the platform and, like most people know, there are two options – Android and iOS. This may look like a silly question because the apps are usually written for both of them but remember that, with some exceptions, it costs twice as much for one platform’s support. As we want to reach as many users as possible, it’s worth to choose both.
With this choice, another question appears – are we going to use native or hybrid technology? The native app is relatively more stable than the hybrid one but it must be written for each platform separately, so it takes more time.
Otherwise, usually, the hybrid app needs less development because the code base is for both platforms. However, new features on the systems come with delays. Moreover, because of hybrid technology constraints, some elements must still be written separately in the native solution.
Otherwise, usually, the hybrid app needs less development because there is one codebase for both platforms. However, new features on the systems come with delays, because developers responsible for hybrid technology needs time to rewrite these new features to the hybrid codebase.
Moreover, hybrid technologies are not developed by system providers and may not contain some of the system-specific elements, then some parts must still be written separately in the native solution. So hybrid app development can save your time and budget, but not in every project, especially no if it’s very complex and needs a lot of newest system features.
Our app is mostly the user interface for the backend, but it has a lot of modules, and, with time, there might appear some unexpected situations that increase costs, so let’s choose native technology. (But if you are interested more in hybrid technologies, here you can read Flutter vs. React Native – a comparison for business owners.)
At this point, developers make other decisions, like which coding language or libraries should be used.
Technical stack shared between iOS and Android:
- Bitrise – a well-maintained project needs a CI (Continuous Integration) service, which delivers builds to the QA team and the client. In our work, we use Bitrise, which is focused on mobile development and provides many useful open-source steps, like the Chuck Norris jokes step 😉
- Firebase – a service provided by Google with a huge number of functions. In our projects, these are usually used for crash reporting and analytics.
- Zeplin – used by our designers to provide us with interactive designs of the project. We can check the parameters of each element of the screen, import images to the project or even generate code.
- Google Sheets – known by everyone, but how can it be useful in developing a mobile app? Well, it is the best place to store translations texts and sync them automatically with the project.
iOS app technical stack
Yet, for the sake of completeness, here is the iOS technical stack from a similar project of ours:
- XCode & Swift 5.2 – in iOS projects, we don’t have a big choice for IDE (Integrated Development Environment) or coding language. XCode may not be the best editor, but it is supported by Apple and other IDEs are based on its functions. Swift is the only reasonable choice for the coding language now. The old Objective-C is hard to use and may increase development time.
- Cocoapods – the most common dependency manager for iOS development. Although Apple officially supports SPM, many libraries still only use Cocoapods. Some of the libraries that we use are SnapKit for easier layout management using code, SwiftLint for warnings about wrong code style or Quick and Nimble for better-organized tests.
Android app technical stack
(prepared by Dawid – our Android developer at Droids On Roids)
- Android Studio & Kotlin version 1.3.50
- Hyperion for Android – a menu library with functionalities like inspecting attributes, checking measurement information of views, and a crash plugin. The crash plugin stack display came out as the most practical.
- WebView – came in handy when displaying various static content from the client’s web page as well as handling the part of the payment logic that needed interaction with external providers on their web pages.
- STF (Smartphone test farm) – it consists of a farm of Android/iOS smartphones, where each device can be accessed remotely. It’s especially convenient for testing application behavior on multiple devices.
- Android Debug Bridge (adb) – a tool for communicating with a device through a command-line.
We are making the airline app and, as discussed earlier, the backend is very important. So it is good to mention some API providers for airlines:
- Sabre – solution for booking flights, buying ancillary services, generating boarding passes and many more
- Routehappy – provides rich media for airlines, like previews of airplanes or maps of airports
- AviationEdge – API for finding flight routes and schedules
We have clarified the key features of a mobile airline app, and the technological aspects, so now we can estimate the time and budget needed for your airline mobile application.
Building Ryanair-like app – Time & Cost estimation
How much does it cost to develop a mobile app for airlines? The following estimations are based on our 9-years of experience and market knowledge. Moreover, in the last 2 years we have been working on a mobile application for airlines, so we also strong practical background in this area.
Let’s make the following assumptions:
- We create an app for 2 platforms – iOS and Android;
- We have a basic team set-up: 4 developers per platform, 1 designer, 1 Scrum Master, 1 Quality Assurance Engineer;
- Both iOS and Android app are created at the same time, simultaneously;
- A designer begins his work before the start of development and continues during developers’ work;
- A month consists of 4 one-week sprints;
- Developers / designers work 35 h per 1 week;
- iOS and Android developer hourly rate = $55 per hour*;
- Designer hourly rate = $55 per hour;
- The monthly amount of payable hours of a Scrum Master is 15% of hours logged by developers & designers in the month;
- The monthly amount of payable hours of a QA Engineer is 15% of hours logged by developers in the month;
- iOS and Android developer hourly rate = $55 per hour*
* The hourly rates varies based on platform and country. According to the list of top mobile app development companies by Clutch.co, the hourly rates may range from less than $25, up to 300$ or more per hour.
For example, there are 2508 companies with an hourly rate lower than $25, where 1900 of them are from India. There are 20 companies with rates higher than $300 per hour, and they are mostly from the US and UK.
In this article, we use our hourly rates which are within the range of development companies from Central and Eastern Europe region: $40-$70.
How many hours do developers need for each key feature?
Let’s examine each module (feature) and try to estimate it. This estimation is based on our experience with a very similar project:
- flight booking – the most complicated feature with many screens and complex logic. This flow can be the first version of the app and the rest of the features we can develop later. This can take around 1,000 hours to be done.
- manage reservations – this module is much simpler than the previous one and contains some shareable elements with flight booking flows. Thanks to this, it will take about 400 hours.
- check-in – its flow is quite simple and straightforward but needs integration with some of the system services, like mobile wallets or notifications. This may take about 240 hours.
- loyalty program – this feature contains a lot of elements but most of them are rather simple. To create this we will need about 450 hours.
- flight status & watch – the simplest element of the app, but it contains notifications integration, which may generate additional work. Still, we need about 150 hours.
- after-flight reservations – based mainly on integration with other services with some potentially fancy features. We can assume that it can take about 200 hours.
However, it is just the development time. Before developers start their work, we need a designer who will be responsible for the Product Design of your mobile app. Based on our experience, we estimate that a designer would need about 400 hours to design an application with such features as above.
Summing up, to build a complex airline app we will need around 2,440 hours of developers’ work for one platform, and around 200 hours of a designer’s work per platform.
How many months are needed to deliver a complex airline app?
2,440 hours / (35 hours per week x 4 developers) = 4.5 months
You can develop an airline app for 2 platforms at the same time.
What is more, we add 1 month for creating wireframes and visual design which is necessary before developers start their work. The designer will carry out his work during your iOS app development and Android app development.
So, 4.5 months + 1 month = 5.5 months – this is the approximate time needed to create your complex airline app for iOS and Android, assuming that you hire 4 developers per platform.
How much does an airline app cost?
However, please notice:
- This is a rough estimation of building a complex mobile app for airlines! If you would decide to start with an application that has only 2 basic key features like e.g. flight booking and managing reservations, the first version of your app would be ready much faster and with a smaller budget.
- The time needed to deliver your product can change during development because of bug fixes, code improvements, and other similar tasks that are not easily predictable.
After a successful release, probably you will want to improve your product. This is the last step of the mobile app development process – the maintenance. In this stage, developers improve the existing app and add new features. In our case, it can be for example an additional catalog of benefits in a loyalty program or even a whole rebrand.
How to make an airline app like Ryanair: challenges & recommendations
The above calculations are still based on estimations and might change due to some of the unexpected reasons. That’s why it is important to consider in the mobile app development process as many threats as possible. Just to name a few:
Airline companies are quite old but they have tried to adapt the newest technology as fast as possible. When the internet became popular, they wanted to integrate their system with it. Unfortunately, because of this, many different systems appeared with different points of use. Many of them are not fully integrated between others and are built with legacy systems. That makes it difficult to use them in a well-working mobile app.
TIP: It is a good idea to write some proofs of concept examples to check API functionality and to be in touch with the provider to quickly solve any misunderstandings.
Flying by airplane is heavily based on the dates and they are difficult from the site of development. They can be in different formats and time zones. Users can also be in different time zones. This is the source of many unexpected and hard-to-find bugs.
TIP: That’s why it is important to use well-tested dates library or write it on your own at the start of development with multiple edge-case tests
3rd party payment
As mentioned earlier, the app may contain different payment methods, which implicate different payment services. This generates a similar problem as backend providers because it is hard to integrate many of them in the app.
TIP: Fortunately, many payment service providers have their own libraries for different platforms. So it is worth to check it before the development starts
Creating a mobile travel app for airlines – wrap up
I hope my article was helpful and creating a mobile airline app like Ryanair became clearer to you.
As you could see, creating a mobile application for airlines is a complex & sophisticated process. You may face numerous challenges, and unpredictable bumps in the development road.
At the same time, the stakes are very high.
You fight for increasing your customers’ loyalty, improving user experience, building your competitiveness on the market, and much more.
Thus, it’s worth ensuring your airline app development to a reliable mobile app development company that has well-established experience & knowledge in this area. At Droids On Roids, we have developed a big-league airline application, which can’t be in our portfolio due to NDA restrictions. However, we would love to share with you our experience over the call if you find it helpful.