Ryanair is Europe’s favourite airline, operating more than 1,600 daily flights from 72 bases, connecting 192 destinations in 31 countries and operating a fleet of more than 300 new Boeing 737-800 aircraft. Ryanair has recently announced firm orders for a further 283 new Boeing 737 aircraft, as well as options for 100 more Boeing 737 MAX 200s, which will enable Ryanair to lower fares and grow traffic from 103m this year to 160m p.a. in 2024. Ryanair currently has a team of more than 9,500 highly skilled aviation professionals, and has an industry leading 30-year safety record.
This case study explains how Ryanair used Couchbase Mobile to optimize Semi-Static Data management for its mobile application used by over 3 million travelers – resulting in 60% faster booking times, 87% less data transfer, a better user experience, and significantly higher app store ratings.
Semi-Static Data is data that is updated infrequently. In Ryanair’s case, it’s data like airline seating maps, airport stations, and airline routes. Semi-Static Data can be difficult to manage efficiently within a mobile application. When one of the Ryanair airline routes changes, for example, the change must be reflected in the app in real-time so users can accurately book flights.
In the past, there were two main ways to approach this challenge:
Bundle the resources in your application
Retrieve the resources over the network
Each of these approaches has constraints. The first, bundling the resources, is constrained by a combination of release time and app store approval time. The second, network retrieval, solves for the release time and app store reliance constraints but requires the app to constantly pull data from the cloud. This is resource intensive and constrained by network availability and performance.
As the Ryanair case shows, network retrieval of Semi-Static Data was resource-intensive and negatively impacted app performance. They faced the challenge of optimizing Semi-Static Data management to increase app performance and user experience while avoiding the constraints associated with resource bundling and network retrieval.
Couchbase Mobile helped them solve this challenge.
The Ryanair Mobile Application
Ryanair is both the largest European airline by scheduled passengers carried and the busiest international airline by passenger numbers. It operates more than 1,600 daily flights from 72 bases, connecting 192 destinations in 31 countries with over 300 aircraft — and estimates carrying 103 million passengers per year this year, with plans to grow traffic to 160 million per year by 2024.
The Ryanair mobile app faced performance challenges associated with continuous retrieval of Semi-Static Data from the cloud. This was having a significant negative effect on user experience.
Moving to Couchbase Mobile enabled the Ryanair mobile development team to optimize the management of Semi-Static Data, significantly improving performance and user experience. No major re-architecture was required to integrate Couchbase Mobile into existing iOS and Android apps.
This case study will detail:
- The old and new architectures of Ryanair’s mobile app
- How Ryanair reduced the time required to complete a booking in the app via Semi-Static Data management optimization
- How Ryanair decreased data transfer to their app via Semi-Static Data management optimization
The Challenge: App Performance
Ryanair’s 3 million+ mobile users rely on the app to plan their trips – everything from completing bookings to viewing boarding passes, seating maps, airport information and more.
Prior to moving to Couchbase Mobile, the Ryanair mobile app relied on real-time Semi-Static Data from the cloud to drive this app functionality. The wait time for retrieving this data was a significant portion of the time users spent performing tasks within the app.
Users faced several application issues:
- The 5 minutes it took to complete a booking was much longer than users liked
- User experience was unpredictable due to network availability and performance
- A large amount of data was required to be transferred to the mobile device over the network for features to work
Poor app performance and unpredictability yielded an inadequate experience for Ryanair mobile users, and the app received negative feedback in app stores and in the press as a result.
Original App Architecture
The original application architecture was a hybrid mobile app using REST services backed by a relational database and cache. In this architecture, the mobile device talks to the Web Server, via REST, which retrieves data from the cache and/or database. The cache and database are separate systems.
With this architecture:
- Bookings took more than five minutes to complete
- Semi-Static Data had to be retrieved from the server during each booking request, increasing the amount of time to complete a booking
- Over 80 GB of Semi-Static Data was being transferred to mobile apps per day to drive the booking process
The Solution: Couchbase Mobile
The development team selected Couchbase Mobile to address the experience and performance issues associated with the length of the booking process. Couchbase Mobile brings the full power and flexibility of NoSQL to mobile. It’s engineered to provide fast and consistent access to data, with or without a network connection, removing the network dependency that traditional service-based approaches require.
Couchbase Mobile is comprised of three components:
- Couchbase Lite, an embedded NoSQL database that runs locally on a mobile device
- Couchbase Sync Gateway, a cloud component that enables secure data synchronization over the internet
- Couchbase Server, an enterprise NoSQL database that runs in the cloud
Integrating Couchbase Mobile into their existing Android and iOS apps did not require significant application re-architecture: they embedded the Couchbase Lite database in the app, changed their app code to retrieve the data from the database instead of from the server, and configured the database to sync changes to the data using Sync Gateway. The rest of the app stayed exactly the same.
New App Architecture
With Couchbase Mobile Ryanair moved to a synchronization architecture. Semi-Static Data is stored in the embedded Couchbase Lite database locally on the device and automatically updated via Sync Gateway when it changes in the cloud. The app always retrieves the data from the embedded database, eliminating the need to constantly request this data from the server.
Couchbase Server has built-in in-memory cache, eliminating the need for a separate cache.
Under this new architecture, Semi-Static Data is stored locally on the device, eliminating unneeded trips to the cloud.
Additionally, the Ryanair team did not have to build their own storage and synchronization solution. Critical features like synchronization, storage, and security are all included in Couchbase Mobile.
The Result: Better User Experience and Increased App Performance
Couchbase Mobile helped Ryanair increase their app performance and enhance their user experience. Ryanair was also able to overhaul their app experience without significant re-architecture to their existing app.
With Couchbase Mobile, Ryanair:
Can easily manage Semi-Static Data
- Did not have to implement their own synchronization and storage solution
- Was able to integrate with existing Android and iOS apps without significant re-architecture
The mobile app experience is now faster and better —
- The booking process is 60%+ faster (slashed from over 5 minutes to under 2)
- Network traffic to drive bookings is 87% more efficient (reduced from 80 GB/day to 10 GB/day)
- The user experience is vastly improved, as evidenced by an increase in app store ratings.
“ Over the last 30 years, Ryanair has experienced exponential growth. Since we launched our new mobile app supported by Couchbase, we have increased app performance and decreased flight booking times from 5 minutes to 2 minutes. Couchbase Mobile has helped us achieve our user experience goals. ”
Ryanair Runs on Couchbase Mobile
How Ryanair Reduced Booking Time from 5 to Less Than 2 Minutes: Couchbase Connect 2015
Ryanair is the largest European airline by scheduled passengers carried and the busiest international airline by passenger numbers. Last year, the company was facing major performance and user experience issues due to their traditional REST mobile architecture. Intermittent network connectivity coupled with scaling challenges was resulting in booking times taking at least 5 minute to complete. Now, with Couchbase Mobile, Ryanair provides a truly amazing user experience for its 3+ million mobile users, having decreased booking time to under 2 minutes. In this session, Vladimir will go through the Ryanair mobile architecture, why the team moved to Couchbase Mobile, and how the Ryanair mobile user experience has been completely revamped.