User experience consultancy Webcredible’s 2010 Flights Online Report found BA offers the best levels of usability in the online travel sector, scoring an overall rating of 78%.

The report shows that budget airlines have made the biggest improvements online over the past year. EasyJet is now close behind BA on 77%, improving from 50% last year, while Ryanair has climbed 12 places from last year to 8th with a score of 66%.

Five websites – also including Virgin Atlantic, BMI and Travel Republic – scored over 70% compared to just three last year, while the average usability score rose to 64.4% from 55.2% last year.

The improved figures suggest that the online travel industry is beginning to recognise the value of improving the usability of their sites; however, this is not across the board with 11 sites scoring in the 60s and Opodo and Lastminute.com both dropping lower in the rankings that last year.

The report found that there are many areas that could still be improved such as support for comparison shoppers, making pages ‘share friendly’, providing airport information and providing progress bars and contact numbers during the booking process.

Trenton Moss, director at Webcredible, said: “Usability is essential so that site visitors can find the flights they’re looking for quickly and intuitively. A poor user experience could lead to customers going elsewhere and could make customers reluctant to complete other transactions online, such as checking-in.”

Webcredible scored ten airlines and ten travel agents against 20 best practise usability guidelines, which were each assigned a score of 0 -5. Capabilities that were tested throughout the report include searching for flights, search results and flight summary booking pages and errors and error handling.

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