Budget airline faces legal action over website access


A disability charity has begun legal action against a budget airline over its failure to make its website accessible to blind and partially-sighted customers.

RNIB says bmibaby has failed to take action to ensure that customers who use screen-readers or cannot use a mouse can book flights on its website, despite being alerted to problems in 2010.

RNIB is acting on behalf of two bmibaby customers who say they have been unable to book online since changes were made to the website in 2010.

They claim the company is breaching the Equality Act by failing to make the site accessible to them, forcing them to use an expensive call centre instead.

One of them, Alexandra, from Loughborough, said: “I didn’t want to use the call centre as costs can mount up and I wanted the freedom to compare flights and prices before making a decision.

“I feel that it is robbing visually-impaired people of the freedom to choose how they make bookings. It makes me feel like the disabled community is not seen as a lucrative market and that we are clearly not valued as potential or returning customers.”

The other customer, Iain, who chairs a Scottish charity, said he needs to be able to search for information and book flights to attend frequent meetings in England.

He added: “It is very frustrating that the website remains inaccessible when these issues have been flagged up since 2010.”

RNIB has provided bmibaby with expert advice, recommendations and an audit report, but claims the company is “still to make any significant progress”.

The charity said it has now begun legal proceedings against bmibaby.

Hugh Huddy, RNIB’s campaigns officer for inclusive society, said: “Blind and partially-sighted customers deserve to have access to the best online prices and flight information, just as any customer of bmibaby does.

“Why should those with sight loss risk missing out on a web-only deal or be forced to ring a call centre simply because companies are failing to take accessibility standards seriously?”

A bmibaby spokeswoman said: “We commissioned a report from RNIB and received the results of the audit in November 2011 in which they detailed what we needed to do on our website.

“We are currently working through the proposals and investigating several solutions. Whilst we are going through this process we have a new local rate telephone number for blind and partially-sighted people to call to speak to our call centre to obtain our discounted website fares.

“We have also added an accessibility page to bmibaby.com in order to keep customers up to date with our progress.

“We have a project team in place to action the recommendations and we would like to thank our customers for their patience whilst these changes are being implemented.”

26 January 2012


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