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February 27, 2013
Air travel plans are on the rise for Americans as 91 percent intend to take a domestic flight at least once in 2013, up from 86 percent who said they flew domestically last year. Additionally, international travel is taking off, with 67 percent planning such flights, compared to 56 percent that did so in 2012.
No Frills, No Fees
When travelers were asked to share their biggest complaints about air travel, lack of seat comfort and airline fees top the list.
The top five biggest complaints about air travel:
- Uncomfortable seats / limited legroom
- Costly airline fees and ticket prices
- Unpredictable flight delays
- Long security lines
- Other passengers (e.g. loud children)
Thirty-eight percent of respondents say that giving "more legroom" is the number one thing airlines should do to improve the in-flight experience. While seat comfort is a priority for travelers, most are reluctant to pay a premium for the benefit:
- 44 percent have never paid extra for a better seating assignment.
- 85 percent of travelers said they would pay less than $25 for a seat upgrade on domestic flights, 81 percent would pay $50 or less on international flights.
- If they had it their way, 58 percent would take an aisle seat, 42 percent would choose the window, and four percent prefers the oft-dreaded middle seat.
- 81 percent would be willing to go without in-flight entertainment for a significantly cheaper flight.
- 63 percent are not willing to pay to sit in a designated "quiet" section of the airplane if airlines offered such a section, while 23 percent said they might pay less than $25.
The five most annoying airline fees, according to respondents:
- Checked baggage
- Carry-on baggage
- Seat selection
- Printed boarding pass at airport
- In-flight amenities
- Riding the Gravy Plane
To help overcome the challenges associated with air travel, most flyers seek a little special treatment in exchange for their loyalty:
- 87 percent of respondents participate in a frequent flyer program.
- 73 percent have exchanged points for a free or discounted flight.
- 26 percent have successfully used points for seat upgrades.
Fifty-one percent of respondents say that the brand of airline is important or extremely important when making a booking decision. Southwest Airlines tops the most popular airline list, with 19 percent of travelers naming it their favorite.
Travelers Get Techie
Technology and up-to-date amenities are increasingly important to flyers:
- One quarter of respondents say they would choose one airline over another if it offered WiFi.
- 37 percent consider their iPad or tablet a carry-on essential, a five percent increase from 2012.
Consistent with the widespread growth of mobile devices, more travelers are using a smartphone to:
- Check flight status – 56 percent of respondents, up from 46 percent in 2012.
- Check in to flights – 38 percent, up from 30 percent in 2012.
- Research flight prices – 36 percent, up from 30 percent in 2012.
"Flyers continue to voice concerns about the challenges associated with air travel, such as extra fees and limited legroom," says Bryan Saltzburg, general manager of TripAdvisor Flights. "However, it seems equally clear that these challenges are not limiting the increasing demand for flights."
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