Rethinking baggage and fees.

KAYAK is a travel search engine used by millions of users around the world. As a senior product designer at KAYAK, I am the design lead for all flight related products, KAYAK’s most popular vertical.

Back in 2004, shopping for flights was fairly simple. Fast forward a couple of years later, shopping for airfare is more complex than ever. The last thing we want for users, is to realize that “great deal” on a flight to Miami is not-so-great when they realize the price didn’t include carry-on baggage. We want to  help users understand and differentiate between the fare families, know how to navigate new fees and understand how much they will pay upfront.


The audience

People who are using the product belong to:

• All age groups, starting at 18

• Business travelers, family travelers, couples, solo travelers

• Price-sensitivity travelers

The travel journey starts with discovery, at which point the traveler is still making high level decisions about destination and dates. Once that is decided, then the traveler starts getting into the specifics and looking at all the details, including baggage fees.

"To be an effective designer, you have to understand how things will affect the business."

The Objectives

User needs: Understand & differentiate between fare families and know what they are paying upfront.

Business goals: We have to think of the business opportunities for KAYAK. How can we find opportunities for up-selling fares to users? Make an agreement with airlines to give us Fare Family content that we can up-sell for users who want to pay a little extra for add-ons.

The Solution

There are many attributes to the different fare families, and baggage is only one of them. We realized that this was a bigger ask that needed to be broken down to MVP (most lovable product). We came up with what we call, Fare Assistant, which allows users to add their selection for carry-on or checked bag.

How will we measure success?

• Overall engagement rate with the new tool

• Fewer customer support tickets

• Overall increase in conversion rates

• NPS (Net promoter score)

The Fare Assistant works like a calculator, it automatically adjusts the prices on the flight cards to reflect the total amount that users will be paying on the booking site. Whenever there was an opportunity to upgrade to the next fare, the tickets are automatically adjusted. For example, if the price for a basic ticket with extra baggage is more expensive than an upgrade (that usually includes even more perks), then we automatically upgrade the ticket. It's a win-win situation for both users and airlines.

“I booked my flight to go visit my sister and had by far the best experience on KAYAK. I particularly found the baggage fee calculator useful, as well as the ability to filter out specific providers."


29 years old