What Do Air Travelers Want? CTA Probes Preferences

What’s the first thing travelers look for in an airline ticket? That's what the Consumer Travel Alliance (CTA) asked in a new survey of 800 air travelers.

"If you said, 'a low price,' you’re absolutely right. 77 percent said they consider the fare first,” according to the alliance. After digging deeper, CTA saw a wide variety of traveler concerns, including scheduling, non-stops and luggage fees.

CTA, a non profit group, noted in its study that airlines have used that low-price preference "to justify cutting customer service and "unbundling" prices — removing everything but a base fare — without asking the simple question: What else do you want?" The CTA survey of readers of Elliott.org and ConsumerTraveler.com showed consumers have many concerns and frustrations with air travel.

The results of the survey (Travelers were asked to name to three important elements of a ticket, so the percentages don’t add up to 100):

• Schedule – 48 percent
• Non-stop vs. connecting flight – 47 percent
• Luggage charges and other fees – 36 percent
• Frequent flier benefits – 21 percent
• Extra legroom – 20 percent
• Airports served (which area airport is selected) – 19 percent
• Reputation of airline service – 15 percent
• Business class availability – 6 percent

The survey also allowed readers to write in responses. Among the most popular answers:
• An all-inclusive airfare.
• To be treated like a customer.
• Flexibility to change without fees.
• More overhead bin space.
• Enough seat width.

Follow-up conversations with the survey respondents suggested passengers require more than a cheap ticket price, the CTA noted.

The alliance found air travelers were not necessarily looking for perks, but rather trying to avoid inconveniences such as extra fees for checked bags or ticket changes. The survey also found that passengers felt as if airlines can’t or won’t listen to them.

"Airlines do know what passengers want," said one respondent. "They just don’t care. As long as they have people coming back in earnest, the shenanigans and schemes will continue."

Visit www.consumertravelalliance.org.