Screaming Baby or Smelly Seat Mate? Harris Poll Shows Consumer Views

business travelerWith 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 desire.

Findings from a new Harris Poll of 2,276 adults conducted March 13,18 by Harris Interactive 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.

Some 58% are willing to pay for extra legroom on a longer flight (3+ hours) and more than half (53%) are willing to shell out to avoid the dreaded middle seat on such a flight. 

Pollsters said 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 Air Lines.

Southwest Airlines was the 2013 Value Airline Brand of the Year for the third consecutive year in the Harris Poll EquiTrend Study. 

Click here for the full list of 2013 EquiTrend Brands of the Year:

Many flyers appear to be unsatisfied with the current amount of personal space on airplanes. The majority (58%) willing to pay extra for additional legroom on a long flight and half of fliers (50%) indicating that it would even 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. But men (28%) are twice as likely as women (14%) to select in-flight Wi-Fi as a top amenity.

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, the survey discovered. 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 believed there was anything more onerous 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.

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 three hour or longer flight.

Roughly one-fourth (24%) would pay extra for this on a flight under two hours. More than four in ten (44%) would pay extra for in-flight Wi-Fi on a three hour or longer 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 kids to choose in-flight Wi-Fi (34% versus 5%) and in-flight entertainment (25% versus13%) as among their most-desired amenities.

To view the full findings, go here:


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