What Travelers Want

OAG has interesting data on how people say they go about searching for flights, what information they want (and thus what information might shift their booking behavior to another platform), and what the biggest frustrations in travel are.

The survey of 2,474 travelers (31 percent business travelers, 69 percent leisure travelers) was conducted from December 2016 to January 2017 and distributed to users of the company’s FlightView mobile travel app on iOS and Android.

Travelers are most likely to start searching for flights on an airline site or app (41%) or at an online travel agency or airfare meta search site (28%).

More than half of people want to know:

  • Whether a flight’s price will drop if they wait to book (although people also don’t trust fare prediction sites)
  • Whether they’re likely to make a connection that comes up in flight search

Surprisingly, travelers report being less interested in knowing about inflight amenities. OAG suggests this is because people are more reliant on their own devices, and don’t worry about inflight entertainment options. Blog readers no doubt disagree. It could just as easily be an assumption that air travel is bad, everyone is equally bad, and that there are no amenities to speak of (a perception that’s wrong, but that airlines have done little to dispel and much to reinforce).

On-time performance is the third most important booking factor after price and schedule.

41% of travelers say they’d be willing to pay more for “guaranteed reimbursement in instances of flight delays or cancellations” which at first blush seems strange considering:

  • travelers are entitled to a refund for cancellations
  • premium credit cards provide reimbursement for significant delays and cancellations
  • people can buy travel insurance

But current products are either obscure (most people don’t know about credit card benefits) or untrustworthy (‘guaranteed’ here is an important phrase when it comes to airlines and travel insurance).

The biggest frustration business travelers face is lack of timely updates about flight delays. A substantial majority of people want better information about security wait times, and of course the TSA’s app is useless in this regard. PreCheck isn’t considered a solution either, in fact “45 percent of travelers with TSA PreCheck – and 57 percent of business travelers – report that TSA PreCheck has become too crowded and is losing its initial value.”

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. Even as an avid reader of your blog, that priority order isn’t surprising to me, with amenities far below on time performance (OTP). In fact I’ll significantly bump up OTP if I’ve got a critical meeting, flying a more inconvenient Delta itinerary over a cheaper one from American.

  2. PreCheck is most definitely more crowded now than ever but casual travelers are missing the point. PreCheck, when the procedure is understood by those in line, allows shoes to stay on and bags remain packed. I got PreCheck more for those reasons than shorter lines, I rarely was bothered by long-ish lines. But to have to unpack and remove shoes/belts/light jackets was the bigger problem for me. PreCheck is still very valuable IMO

  3. The pricing is very frustrating due to lack of predictability and lack of refunds when prices drop – both a big change from 20 years ago. It is one reason that many travelers favor Southwest and to a lesser extent, Alaska and Virgin. I think AA also offers an option to waive change fees but not fare drop credits.

  4. I’m a little puzzled by Gary’s comment “It could just as easily be an assumption that air travel is bad, everyone is equally bad, and that there are no amenities to speak of (a perception that’s wrong, but that airlines have done little to dispel and much to reinforce)”

    I’d squarely and emphatically agree that “air travel is bad, everyone is equally bad, and that there are no amenities to speak of” — at least as regards domestic business travel without top-tier status. Gary (or any who agree) how would you support your assertion that this perception is wrong? Thanks.

  5. (Okay, let me be a little more nuanced.) Certainly Spirit is not Delta, but let’s exclude the ULCCs.

    For domestic business travel without top-tier status, for a diverse set of destinations (not just commuting LGB-JFK):
    – every carrier’s boarding process is unpleasant at best,
    – every carrier’s ops and FA staff are curt at best, and surly as often as not,
    – every carrier’s seat pitch is uncomfortable,
    – a few carriers have in-seat power, which may or may not work.

    Alaska tends to do slightly better on a couple of these, sometimes — and has a very limited route network. Southwest occasionally does better on a couple of these.

    That aside, who is the carrier that reliably differentiates themselves on amenities or experience, enough to reach a level that you’d weigh it as a co-factor with price, schedule, and OTP?

  6. Unless you regularly fly Southwest, I find it interesting that so many travelers start their search on an airline’s own website. That’s just not a very good idea. Perhaps it explains how Southwest can still “afford” not to participate in the global distribution systems that everyone else uses.

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