Study highlights airline accessibility taking off, steep climb remains


  • Airline Accessibility


  • United Kingdom
  • United States
  • Spain
  • Scandinavia

Driving the news:

The UK Civil Aviation Authority’s (CAA) Airline Accessibility Framework aims to improve accessibility to airline websites, apps, and tickets for people with disabilities. The CAA recently commissioned a study based on user feedback and technical audits that exposed accessibility barriers among 11 top airlines. The findings suggest that consumer ratings and WCAG success criteria may be correlated. This research also reminds all industries that well-executed accessibility initiatives result in smoother transactions and stronger brand loyalty.

Airline accessibility challenges persist:

Notably, the study shows that the most popular websites have similar accessibility challenges despite compliance with WCAG 2.0. For instance, users commonly cited poor keyboard navigation support, the improper labeling of buttons and hyperlinks, and the lack of assistance during flight booking. Top-tier airlines like British Airways, Emirates, EasyJet, Aer Lingus, KLM, and Virgin Atlantic had consistently positive user feedback. In contrast, Logan Air, Wizz Air, Jet2, Ryanair, and TUI all had low consumer ratings. 

Spanish airline Vueling fined for website violations:

Spanish airline Vueling is paying the price for failing to make its website and online services accessible. Authorities this year upheld their fine of €90,000 and prohibited the carrier from receiving official aid from the Secretary of State for Social Rights for 6 months. The magistrates of the Eighth Section court dismissed the airline’s 2020 appeal, which alleged its conduct wasn’t contrary to its accessibility obligations. According to the court, the airline only met 4 of the 38 accessibility requirements, leading to maximum sanctions.

Scandinavian Airline System (SAS) rectifies a previous violation:

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) fined SAS $200,000 in 2017 for violating its website accessibility requirements. SAS developed a separate site for people with disabilities instead of making its main website compliant with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 Level AA standard, as required by the Air Carrier Access Act. In response, SAS eliminated the separate website for people with disabilities and made its primary website accessible. Moreover, the DOT now has a website for Aviation Consumer Protection with information that helps travelers understand their rights and a dedicated site for filing consumer complaints

The future – things may be looking up: 

The industry is showing signs of getting on board with digital accessibility. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) issued a 2023 Global Passenger Survey that found roughly 20% of travelers need better accessibility for booking and reservations. IATA has issued guidance materials to ensure airline websites provide easy access to essential information. 

Resulting improvements include the development of simplified gateways to dedicated accessibility areas, clarification of assistance eligibility, and accommodating early assistance requests during booking. Moreover, with prominent airlines embracing accessibility and the increasing regulatory pressure, it stands a better chance of being the accepted worldwide standard. 

The UK CAA report and IATA survey emphasize the need for more detailed research and action on the customer journey beyond mere WCAG compliance. These lessons are global, providing a blueprint for widespread adoption.

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