The UK CAA’s report on airline website accessibility shines a light on problem areas and suggests fixes airlines should focus on to improve their digital channels.
A recently conducted Airline Digital Accessibility Report examined the websites of the 11 largest airlines operating in the UK. The report, commissioned by the UK Civil Aviation Authority and carried out by Hassell Inclusion, aimed to assess the technical accessibility and user-friendliness of these websites for bookings.
To determine the websites’ compliance with accessibility standards, they were evaluated according to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.1 AA). These guidelines serve as a set of technical recommendations for enhancing accessibility.
UK CAA Airline Digital Accessibility Trials
As part of the research, a focus group consisting of individuals with accessibility needs shared their experiences and insights regarding their digital consumer journeys. They emphasized that accessibility extends beyond technical compliance, highlighting the differing booking experiences based on their specific needs and expectations.
Statistics provided by the government indicate that approximately 20 percent of the UK population has accessibility needs. These may impact their ability to use digital platforms effectively.
Report Findings: British Airways Leads on Accessibility
The report revealed areas for improvement across the board, emphasizing the need for consistent and ongoing consumer research by airlines. However, it also acknowledged that many airlines have already undertaken efforts to address the findings and enhance website accessibility.
Among the evaluated airlines, British Airways achieved the highest score for technical accessibility while also receiving a 7 out of 10 rating for its Digital Consumer Journey. On the other end of the spectrum, Jet 2, Ryanair, and TUI obtained low technical accessibility ratings of 1 out of 10 and Digital Consumer Journey scores of only 2 out of 10.
The report was released as part of the regulator’s research for the proposed Airline Accessibility Framework. This framework aims to rank airlines based on the entire customer journey. It provides a comprehensive assessment of accessibility for individuals with specific needs from booking to boarding, onboard support, and post-journey assistance.
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 prioritize 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.”
The UK CAA Accessibility Report
- The full Airline Digital Accessibility Report is published on the UK Civil Aviation Authority website (and included here). The UK CAA also published an executive summary highlighting the key findings and next steps (included below the report).
Notes from CAA on Airline Digital Accessibility Report
- The UK Civil Aviation Authority is the UK’s aviation regulator. We work so that the aviation industry meets the highest safety standards, consumers have choices and value for money and are protected and treated fairly when they fly.
- This is the first time the Civil Aviation Authority has reviewed the accessibility of airline’s digital offerings to consumers. It has been undertaken to enable the Civil Aviation Authority to both understand how well the larger airlines providing flights to the UK enable digital accessibility and to drive real-life improvements in digital accessibility across the sector, delivering direct benefits to aviation consumers who increasingly rely on websites and apps as their main point of access to the aviation market.
- The report did not aim for a comprehensive assessment of the accessibility of airlines’ full websites, which can be many thousand pages. Instead, it is targeted at key consumer-facing journeys/content, including:
- Website homepages
- Booking journey – including the ability to book services specific to passengers who need assistance at the airport or on the plane
- Signposting and accessing essential passenger information
- Information on passenger rights
- Customer service / raising complaints