June 30th, 2016. That’s when the US Department of Transportation (DOT) extended their deadline for US and foreign carriers to have their public facing website accessible for people with disabilities with the Air Carrier Access Act (49 u.s.c. 41705 and 14 c.f.r. 382). That’s a month and a half away.
It also requires that ticket agents that are not small businesses disclose and offer web-based fares to passengers who indicate that they are unable to use an agent’s website due to a disability.
Air Carrier Access Act Regulations
The breakthrough Air Carrier Access Act enhances the customer experience for passengers with disabilities, and offers them the convenience of booking flights, managing bookings and accessing information pertaining to their travel plans. It also ensures that airlines permit passengers with a disability to have a service dog or an emotional support animal with them.
But what do airlines actually have to comply with?
Compliance Schedule for Air Carrier Access Act
Under phase 1, all “core functions” must be WCAG 2.0 Level A and AA compliant by June 30th, 2016. Core functions are defined as:
- Booking or changing a reservation (including all flight amenities)
- Checking-in for a flight
- Accessing a personal travel itinerary
- Accessing the status of a flight
- Accessing a personal frequent flying account
- Accessing flight schedules
- Accessing carrier contact information
Under phase 2, all remaining pages must be made compliant by December 12th, 2016.
The Benefits of Complying with the Air Carrier Access Act
In today’s digital world, delighting customers doesn’t have to be extravagant marketing campaigns, like exotic getaways, to drive more bookings. Airlines that consistently provide a seamless customer experience in all channels, from booking a trip to boarding a flight, win the hearts of customers. Every. Single. Time.
For customers with disabilities, booking travel or accessing information online has always been a challenge, and resulted in dissatisfied customers. Travellers with disabilities are thought to use websites even more than travellers without disabilities, and when disability services aren’t clearly featured on the website, or the website itself is inaccessible, these travellers will ultimately make their reservations elsewhere.
Solving the Digital Customer Experience Dilemma
The DOT extended deadline for Phase I is just a few weeks away. If your airline hasn’t already started the process of auditing your website and fixing any ACAA non-compliant pages, the time to start is now.
In addition to the website, airlines are also required to test the usability of their accessible primary web sites in consultation with individuals or organizations representing visual, auditory, tactile, and cognitive disabilities whether in their local countries or in the US.. Hence, you should be looking for a partner who will provide a gap analysis of the website with code level snippets, and conduct user testing by people with disabilities.
For more information on how we assist airlines meet the Air Carrier Access Act deadlines please contact us today!
- Eric Lipp. Disability Travel Generates $17.3 Billion in Annual Spending. Open Doors Organization July 31, 2015.