Tracey Seupaul

Attention All Airlines: Is Your Inaccessible Document Technology Turning Away Customers?

accessible PDF

Imagine you’re an airline executive and a small but significant percentage of your customers—let’s say 10% or less—download flight itineraries and boarding passes from your website only to find that the information in these documents was jumbled up and, in some cases, missing altogether. What would you do? Would you be concerned enough to take action? Would it matter if these customers didn’t know their flight number, boarding gate, and seat assignment? After all, 90% or more of your customers would still be receiving this information as usual. Before venturing an answer to these hypothetical questions, let’s pause for a quick look at your industry. Over the last 60 years, airline profit margins have averaged less than 1%, though the situation has been improving in recent years. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) reported a net profit margin of 1.8% in 2014 and 4.9% in 2015; industry profits are expected to be 5.6% in 2016. With such narrow margins, it’s clear that airlines need every customer they can get, and the industry has little tolerance for inefficiencies. Now back to your document problem… Even if less than 10% of customers were affected, it seems likely that you’d take steps to fix the problem and also pull out the stops to get it done as fast as possible, before the company loses many customers. Of course, the underlying assumption here is that a proven, economically feasible IT solution is available. This might be happening at your airline—for real All hypotheticals aside, a scenario like this could actually be playing out at your company right now. Consider: According to the 2014 National Health Interview Survey, 22.5 million adult Americans—nearly 10% of adult Americans—reported being blind or having some sort of visual impairment. To access online flight booking tools, along with electronic documents such as itineraries and boarding passes, many of these people need to use screen reader programs that convert text into audio. If, however, the documents aren’t saved in a format like accessible PDF (with a heading structure, defined reading order, etc.), they’re likely to come out garbled or incomplete in a screen reader. Of course, visually impaired customers could book their flights by phone and opt to receive Braille or Large Print documents in the mail (expensive for your airline). Then again, theoretically, all of your other customers could book by phone, too. The point is you don’t really want customers booking by phone because your self-serve website is less costly to operate than customer call centers; electronic documents are cheaper than paper and postage, and much cheaper than Braille and Large Print. So, wouldn’t it be nice if there was an affordable technology solution that you could plug in to serve up the documents that all of your customers—that’s 90% plus 10%—need to fly with your airline? Or course, it would be even better if the solution met the requirements of new Department of Transportation (DOT) rules implementing the Air Carrier Accessibility Act (ACAA), which have a compliance deadline of December 12, 2016. Customer satisfaction and regulatory compliance? Now that would be good. OpenText Automated Output Accessibility Solution OpenText has the only enterprise PDF accessibility solution for high-volume, template-driven documents. This unique software solution can dynamically transform electronic documents such as e-ticket itineraries/receipts and boarding passes into accessible PDFs that comply with the DOT’s new ACAA rules. Designed to be inserted between the back office (e.g., a passenger reservation system) and a customer-facing Web portal, OpenText™ Automated Output Accessibility Solution has minimal impact on existing IT infrastructure. Even better, the solution generates WCAG 2.0 Level AA compliant output that has been tested and validated by prominent organizations and advocacy groups for visually impaired people. OpenText has successfully deployed this solution at government agencies, as well as large commercial organizations, giving them the experience and expertise required to deliver accessible documents within a short time frame, with minimal disruption of day-to-day business. As the de facto electronic document standard for high-volume customer communications, PDF format offers both portability and an unchanging snapshot of information, necessities for a document of record. Contact us to discuss more about how we can help you deliver accessible, ACAA-compliant PDF documents to your customers. Remember, the DOT’s deadline is December 12, 2016.

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