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Oprah Scores with Holiday Air Travelers

Holiday air travelers put Oprah on their seatmate wish list. According to the Chase United Mileage Plus Visa Card Holiday Travel Survey, 30 percent of respondents, mostly women, would most like to gab with Oprah during a cross-country flight. The second most desirable talk show seatmate is Jay Leno (14 percent), who was more popular with male travelers. When it comes to talking business, most respondents would like to swap boardroom advice with Bill Gates (17 percent), followed by Martha Stewart, Alan Greenspan and Richard Branson (all 12 percent). Among college-age respondents, 18 to 24 years old, 40 percent wanted a seat next to Bill Gates. Travelers nearing retirement, ages 55 to 64 years old, would prefer to share an armrest with Warren Buffett.

Consumers may be looking to pick up a great business tip, meet a new friend or even snag a date in addition to earning frequent flier miles on their way home for the holidays. Giving new meaning to “flying the friendly skies,” 24 percent of holiday travelers say they consider a flight an opportunity to meet a future significant other. This is truer for younger travelers, with more than one in five travelers viewing a flight as chance to make a love connection. The survey also found that 14 percent of holiday passengers consider their flight an opportunity to meet potential business contacts and 28 percent think it is a great way to meet new friends.

“Chase and United Mileage Plus wanted to conduct a survey that took a lighthearted look at how consumers will spend their time and money while traveling this holiday season,” said Joe Venuti, senior vice president for JPMorgan Chase & Co.‘s card services division. “With more than one in nine consumers planning on traveling by plane, we thought this was a great opportunity for us to better understand their holiday travel habits and apply this information to make our card even more valuable to frequent fliers.”

For every passenger in the holiday mood there are those who say, “Bah humbug!” About seven in ten of those traveling this holiday season will employ an avoidance tactic when it comes to having a conversation with their seatmate. Reading (49 percent) is the most popular method of skirting small talk, a tactic more frequently used by women than men (60 percent vs. 40 percent). Putting on earphones (41 percent) is also used to dissuade conversation and is especially popular with travelers under the age of 34 (61 percent). Instead of letting polite chatter put them to sleep, some travelers (27 percent) choose to pretend to be asleep to escape conversation - a tactic that is more prevalent among travelers from the Northeast (39 percent) and the South (31 percent). More devious methods of avoiding conversation are changing seats (9 percent), lying (7 percent) and pretending to be sick (4 percent).

When travelers aren’t chatting with their seatmates, or trying to avoid them, they like to spend their flight time reading (37 percent), watching a movie (14 percent) or looking out the window (12 percent). Despite the convenience of laptop computers and a rebounding economy, most travelers are planning to make their holiday just that: only 4 percent plan to do work during their flights.


Even people not traveling by air this holiday season can still expect to experience a taste of the airport. Over one half of survey respondents have bought holiday presents for friends and family at the airport out of convenience (28 percent), last-minute necessity (25 percent), boredom (21 percent) or guilt (7 percent).

The United Mileage Plus Visa card enables cardmembers to earn one mile for every dollar spent in card purchases. Cardmembers also receive 15,000 bonus miles, a one-way 1,000-mile one-class upgrade certificate and a $25 United discount travel certificate after their first purchase.