40 percent of travelers surveyed by Morning Consult would pay more to avoid flying on United Airlines.
The poll was conducted in wake of last week’s incident in which a passenger was dragged from an overbooked United Airlines flight so that employees could fly, leading to a Facebook video that went viral and prompted widespread outrage.
Morning Consult conducted the survey by showing 1,975 American adults simulations of buying flights from Kayak.com. Respondents were asked to chose between flights from NYC to Chicago that were either on American Airlines or United Airlines, and were given four different scenarios that tested how layovers and cost would impact the decision.
In the study, respondents overwhelmingly picked American over United when the cost and duration were the same, by a 79 to 21 split in favor of American among those who had heard of United in the news lately. Among those who hadn’t been following the news, the result was less pronounced, with 51 percent choosing to fly American.
Once a layover was added to the picture, however, respondents were more reluctant to fly American. Among those who had heard of United lately, 57 percent still chose to fly American, while among those who had not heard of United lately, 73 percent chose to keep flying on United.
A price difference had the largest impact. When the American flight was $66 more expensive than the United flight, 51 percent of those who had heard of United in the news lately chose to fly on the airline, while 81 percent who had not heard of United in the news lately chose to keep flying on that airline. Combining both groups, 60 percent of respondents chose United and 40 percent chose American. When combining both the added cost and the layover, 65 percent chose United and 35 percent chose American.
In the wake of last week’s incident, many analysts had suggested that short consumer memories and airline consolidation would prove obstacles to reform over the issues of passenger rights and overbooking.
“This will be just a short kind of hit,” Lakshman Krishnamurthi, a marketing professor at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, told the Washington Post at the time. “Volkswagen had the diesel problem, and their sales are fine. Toyota had a problem years ago, and nothing really happened to their sales.”
Additionally, airline consolidation – which has allowed United to serve more than 50 percent of passenger traffic from major hubs like Houston and Newark – would make it difficult for consumers to avoid flying on United, even if they were determined to do so.