76% of airline websites are ‘not accessible enough for disabled users’

76% of airline websites are ‘not accessible enough for disabled users’ Duncan is an award-winning technology industry analyst, specialising in cloud computing, blockchain, martech and edge computing.

76% of UK, European and American airlines fall short of website accessibility requirements, according to research from digital marketing agency Impression.

With 6,000 Google searches for the term “flight booking” in the past month alone, the summer holiday season is well and truly upon us.

As May’s multiple bank holidays give holidaymakers that festive feeling, many will head online to book their annual getaway.

However, some might fall into difficulties using airline websites as Impression reveals that of the 49 airline websites they analysed, only a third were optimised to provide accessibility for all users. 

With one in six of the world population living with some kind of disability, making a website more accessible is not only the morally right thing to do; it also makes good business sense as it improves the overall usability of a website, potentially upping search engine rankings.

Michael Weir, head of behavioural science at Impression, comments on the findings: “A website is a representation of a business and often one of the core streams of revenue, so alienating users with an inaccessible website can pose not only a moral but also a fiscal issue. 

“As an agency, we are committed to improving the digital advancement of our clients, and website accessibility is a core component of that mission – we hope this study will inspire the airline industry to improve its accessibility, and we are here to help any that would like to explore avenues to achieve that.” 

In many cases, website accessibility is a legal requirement protected under discrimination laws in the UK, EU and America. But, while sites all offered some level of accessibility, not all were fully optimised.

Issues identified by Impression ranged from poor colour contrast, affecting partially sighted and colour-blind users, to coded areas with hidden features and unlabelled buttons that were unreadable to screen readers.

The research was conducted using Google Lighthouse, which gives websites a score out of 100, with anything over 90 considered good. 

Using these metrics, Impression uncovered that 67% of UK airlines had accessible websites, with British Airways and Virgin Airlines the front runners with perfect scores of 100. 

Jet2 had the worst score of all airlines studied, ranking particularly low on ARIA (Accessible Rich Internet Applications) which, in layman’s terms, is a group of HTML roles, states, and properties that provide more context for assistive technologies.

Outside of the UK, in the rest of Europe, just 10% of airline websites scored over 90 for accessibility, with a lack of Names and Labels as the most dominant issue. 

Visual names and labels on parts of websites, like buttons, make them easier to navigate for everyone, but having hidden names and labels within the site is vital for users with visual impairments who need to use screen readers.

Stateside, 45% of American airline websites were appropriately accessible, achieving a score of over 90. American Airlines led the pack with a perfect score of 100, while Hawaiian Airlines had the lowest score of 73.

The UK Government reports that 25% of people with disabilities experience difficulties with trips of any kind, compared with 10% of people without disabilities. 

As we all strive for better working practices, website accessibility is an essential component that should be a core focus for all businesses, especially those looking for growth.

Accessibility was measured using Google Lighthouse looking at website’s mobile view with data collected in March 2024. 

Interested in hearing leading global brands discuss subjects like this in person? Find out more about Digital Marketing World Forum (#DMWF) Europe, London, North America, and Singapore.

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