Accessibility Implementation for Post-Booking on Airline Website

November 22, 2016

A leading airline carrier from the United States of America* needed help in making sure that their passenger-facing channels abide by Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) Accessibility Amendment.

The amendment was made by the Department of Transportation in 2013, and required that all pages and functions of airline carrier public channels be compliant to WCAG 2.0 Level A and Level AA guidelines.

Other identifiers of the project are as follows:

  • Industry: Airline
  • Application Type: e-Commerce Website
  • Service Type: Application Maintenance (Enhancement)

Details of the Requirement

A compliance schedule was also set to give airline carriers time to implement the changes to their channels:

Phase 1: All “Core functions” must be compliant by December 12, 2015. This was later extended to June 30 2016, and the core functions were defined as:

  • Booking or changing a reservation
  • Checking-in for a flight
  • Accessing a personal travel itinerary
  • Accessing the status of a flight
  • Accessing a personal frequent flyer account
  • Accessing flight schedules
  • Accessing carrier contact information.

Phase 2: All remaining pages must be made compliant by December 16, 2016.

For Project Ravenala, the functions to be modified for compliance were the post-booking phase for the airline carrier’s customer – the passenger. This included features related to the passenger’s ability to manage their itinerary (viewing and modifying flights), selecting their preferred seats and even upgrading them when eligible.

The project started in April 2015.

The Solution

The team assigned to Project Ravenala performed both Application Development and Maintenance services combined with Software Testing to apply the needed changes for Accessibility compliance.

The team was made up of 5 software engineers, but it was scaled up based on the workload when necessary.

The team used the following tools in testing the pages and functions for Web Accessibility issues:

  • W3C Website HTML Validator for HTML Semantics
  • Juicy Studio for Contrast Ratio
  • NVDA and ChromVox for screen readers to test audibles
  • Zoom Text extension for Chrome
  • Zoom Text feature for FireFox
  • Browsers’ CSS Disabling features

For the implementation of the changes, the core skills needed were:

  • HTML5
  • CSS3
  • Javascript
    • Jquery 3.0
    • Jquery Validation
  • JSON
  • Graphic Design

The Challenges

Certain challenges were experienced by the team as they applied changes to make the site accessibility compliant:

  • Constant collaboration with the client for verbiage related to Advisory messages
  • Constant collaboration with the client for verbiage related to Error messages
  • Verbiage for link text that can inform the user of actions made

Given that there were branding standards to be followed, the challenges were mostly related to verbiage and colors, which required the team to verify with the client prior to implementation.

As in most cases, back and forth interactions add to the schedule.

The team mitigated this challenge by listing down all the verbiage that needed to be changed, and also provided suggestions. For the colors, the changes were kept to within the airline’s shades of their brand colors.

This eventually urged the client to modify standards for the entire website.

The Benefits

Being one of the leading airline carriers from the US, the client had to be an example for their airline industry. It helps with branding the airline as an industry leader.

Avoiding the risks of being penalized for non-compliance was the most evident benefit on the side of the airline carrier. Fines were witnessed to be around the value of $50,000.00 for some carriers, and some have even been penalized for up to USD$2-Million due to violations of ACAA regulations related to disability and complaints from the sector.

Reducing the risks of litigation, and increasing the chances of retaining their customer base were also considered to be benefits critical to the airline.

Delighting customers has always led to an increase in sales. Making the customer’s experience seamless across all channels for all the functions that they expect to be working for them has shown evidence of this. For customers with disabilities, booking a flight, accessing information, and managing your itinerary were usual challenges. By making the functions accessible for them, the chances of them going to another airline become slimmer.

Thereby, the most obvious benefit will be felt by the passengers.

In the US alone, there are more than 22.5 million adults with visual impairments. Globally, the estimated number of visually impaired people has reached 285 million, 39M are blind and 246M have low vision.


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