American flyers willing to pay more for personal space

American flyers willing to pay more for personal space

As summer travel season approaches, Americans planning vacations – particularly those planning on flying – have a lot of decisions ahead. With the increasing “a la carte”-ization of air travel, flyers are faced with an ever increasing number of choices as to what levels of comfort and convenience they want and are willing to pay for.  Findings from a new Harris Poll show that among Americans who travel by commercial airline once or more per year, many are looking for personal space to stretch out in-flight, with 58% willing to pay for extra legroom on a longer flight (3+ hours) and over half (53%) willing to shell out to avoid the dreaded middle seat on such a flight.

This Harris Poll of 2,276 U.S. adults was conducted online from March 13-18, 2013 by Harris Interactive.

When booking a flight these days, one of the first choices air travelers need to make is which airline will be getting their business. Alaska/Horizon Airlines seems to be a preferred airline for many, as it was named Brand of the Year in the full service airline category in the 2013 Harris Poll EquiTrend® Study, followed by Hawaiian Airlines and Delta Airlines. Southwest was the 2013 Value Airline Brand of the Year for the third consecutive year in the Harris Poll EquiTrend Study, likely due in part to the brand continuing to buck the trend of charging for checked bags and change fees; an additional factor may be the expanding list of destinations becoming available as Southwest continues to absorb AirTran routes. Click here for the full list of 2013 EquiTrend Brands of the Year.

You Can’t Always Get What You Want
Many flyers appear to be unsatisfied with the current amount of personal space on airplanes, with the aforementioned majority (58%) willing to pay extra for additional legroom on a long flight and half of fliers (50%) indicating that it would be worth having a chatty seatmate to be in a seat with extra legroom. When asked to select their top two amenities on a flight, the most desired choice was a window or aisle seat (53%), followed by extra legroom (35%).

*  Women (59%) are more likely than men (48%) to choose a window or aisle seat as among the most important amenities.
*  Men (28%) are twice as likely as women (14%) to select in-flight Wi-Fi as a top amenity.

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Would You Rather…
While extra personal space is the top desire among flyers, many clearly feel that it isn’t worth a spilled drink or smashed laptop, with almost half (46%) of flyers saying they’d rather be seated in a no recline zone than in a seat with extra legroom. Carry-on baggage fees may be another area where some flyers are willing to compromise on comfort, with a surprising 39% saying they’re rather let a stranger sleep on their shoulder than have to pay for carry-on baggage.

“Travelers have been dealing with increasing airline prices and add-on fees for the past few years,” said Mike de Vere , President of The Harris Poll. “We wanted to find out which amenities people were willing to open up their wallets for, and discovered that while many consider added comfort and entertainment to be worth shelling out for, nearly two in five would give up personal boundaries to avoid carry-on baggage fees.”
And who knew that there were bigger pet peeves while flying than a crying baby? Well, the majority of flyers (63%) would rather be seated next to one than next to a smelly adult. But while most flyers are in agreement that they don’t want to share a row with a less-than-fragrant fellow traveler, they’re split on how much they’re willing to listen to their seatmates gab: half of flyers (50%) believe airlines should allow passengers to use mobile phones during flights.

Missed Connection

In-flight entertainment is also seen by many as an important part of pleasant travel, and just over one in four (27%) flyers would rather pay extra for baggage than fly cross-country without in-flight TV and/or movies. That said, over half of flyers (55%) would rather have free WiFi than free TV or movies on a flight. In addition:
*  Nearly half of fliers (47%) would pay extra for a seatback entertainment system on a 3+ hour flight.
*  Roughly one-fourth (24%) would pay extra for this on a flight under 2 hours.
*  Over four in ten (44%) would pay extra for in-flight Wi-Fi on a 3+ hour flight.
*  Slightly more than one fourth (26%) would pay extra for this on a flight of less than two hours.

Those with children under 18 are roughly twice as likely as those without to choose in-flight Wi-Fi (34% vs. 15%) and in-flight entertainment (25% vs. 13%) as among their most-desired amenities.