The Airline Digital Accessibility Report, commissioned by the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and undertaken by Hassell Inclusion, has reviewed the websites of the 11 largest airlines operating in the UK, rating them in terms of their technical accessibility, as well as their ease of use for making bookings.
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Websites were first given a score for their compliance with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.1 AA), a technical set of recommendations designed to improve accessibility standards.
A focus group of consumers with accessibility needs then provided insights on digital consumer journeys. The group highlighted that accessibility goes beyond just technical compliance and raised examples of how booking flights on websites in an accessible manner often differed depending on their needs and expectations.
According to government figures, around 20% of people in the UK have accessibility needs, many of which could impact their ability to use digital platforms.
Key findings from the report highlight that there is overall room for improvement across the board, with a lack of consistent, ongoing consumer research from airlines.
However, it also found that website accessibility was increasingly being prioritised by airlines, with many already having started to make changes that reflect the findings of the report.
British Airways scored highest amongst the airlines for its technical accessibility and scored 7/10 on its Digital Consumer Journey score. At the other end of the scale, Jet 2, Ryanair and TUI received technical accessibility ratings of 1/10 and Digital Consumer Journey scores of just 2/10.
The report was published as part of the regulator’s research for its proposed Airline Accessibility Framework. The proposed Airline Accessibility Framework would rank airlines based on the entire customer journey for people with accessibility needs, from booking through to boarding, on-board support, and post-journey aftercare.
Anna Bowles, Head of Consumer at the UK Civil Aviation Authority, said: “Our skies should be accessible to everyone and that journey often starts with a visit to an airline’s website. Today’s report highlights that there is still a way to go for the industry to provide a smooth digital experience for passengers, both on the technical front but also in terms of ease-of-use.
“Airlines do consider accessibility on their digital platforms but the report provides technical guidance and first hand insight on how they can further prioritise this work and embrace digital inclusivity, so that nobody is left digitally excluded.
“The UK Civil Aviation Authority is happy to support airlines who are working to improve their websites.”
Aviation Minister Baroness Vere of Norbiton said: “For many, that holiday feeling starts when planning and booking their flights so it’s only right that passengers can navigate websites with confidence and ease.
“Today is another reminder that passengers deserve accessible flying, and industry must work together to deliver it.”