In July 2012 Airmalta issued a call for companies who wanted to express their interest in supplying web development services. The RFI included a list of criteria against which prospective suppliers would be assessed in order to be invited to bid for the web development project. These criteria included financial stability, experience working with third party suppliers such as Datalex and also experience in the development of airline websites, large (300+ page) sites with critical (24x7) e-commerce requirements and also multilingual web applications in English, Maltese, Italian, French, German & Russian.
Incredibly, the tender was eventually awarded to Icon Studios Ltd, notwithstanding the fact that the company did not meet any of the above mentioned criteria, and hence should not even have been allowed to bid for the project, let alone win it.
In fact Icon Studios Ltd has submitted accounts to MFSA that show that it made losses in 2010 and 2011 and is having major liquidity issues. The situation was so dire that the company’s auditor Mr John Abela of Horwath Malta felt that it was necessary to put a qualification in the 2010 accounts stating that “the company’s current liabilities exceeded its current assets by €13,865.
These financial statements have been prepared on a going concern basis in view of the fact that the company’s shareholders have agreed to provide adequate funds for the company to meet its liabilities as they fall due.” Clearly the situation at Icon went from bad to worse and in August 2012, when submitting the accounts for 2011, the auditor said “the company’s current liabilities exceeded its current assets by €115,236.”
Clearly Icon Studios Ltd could not be considered a financially stable company by any stretch of the imagination, so it is difficult to understand how Airmalta awarded the contract to them, just a few months after these damning accounts were submitted to MFSA.
This apart from the fact that Icon Studios Ltd has no experience in the development of mission critical web applications or ecommerce functionality, let alone airline websites.
The result of the saga is now online for all to see, and it is clear that instead of moving forwards, our national airline has taken a major leap backwards when it comes to its online presence. The new Airmalta website is now online and users have already started to complain that it is not user-friendly, is extremely slow and furthermore has much less functionality than its previous incarnation.
Navigating through the site has now become much more complex, with users having to click through at least two levels before being able to use popular applications such as the online purchase of vouchers for sports equipment. It is also not possible to register for a Flypass account and to view Flypass statements and information, which is another section that users found very useful in the previous site.
Furthermore it appears that the site has not been tested properly – in fact the prominent ‘View My Booking’ link on home page does not work properly, while the site no longer switches languages automatically according to the country of origin of the viewer. Menus and the design do not render properly (in fact the site does not resize) according to screen size and the site is clearly not designed to handle larger resolutions, which are becoming more and more popular as time goes by. On large screens the site appears broken up and strange white spaces appear in the middle of the page.
To top it all the site has no secure login – in fact the website does not use HTTPS even though visitors are invited to register and then log in using a username and password, hence sensitive data of the end customers is being transmitted insecurely.
Checking Alexa online shows that the Airmalta site is painfully slow and ranks in the bottom 5% of sites on the Internet when it comes to speed. Furthermore traffic to the site has dropped by a whopping 11.76% when compared to 3 months ago. Page views on the site have gone down by 21.89%, while the bounce rate (percentage of people who come to the first page and leave the site because they feel it is not worth clicking further) increased by 15% in the last month alone. It is clear that users are voting with their fingers and are leaving the site in droves. This is bound to impact the bottom line and to leave a major negative impact on online bookings, which will affect the recovery of the airline.
All in all, the Airmalta website redesign has been a disaster. Clearly the development was entrusted to a company that did not have the skills and the resources to deliver, and the results are all too evident.
This is AirMalta's reaction to this article:
"As reported in the local media this week, the airline’s new website has now been soft-launched.
Air Malta is aware that there are still pending issues and it is working closely with its supplier to correct all outstanding matters.
This is absolutely normal in such a project and only when the airline is assured of the site’s full functionality will it make a public announcement and officially launch its new site."