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Flyers Care More About Discounts Than Legroom, Survey Says

Flyers Care More About Discounts Than Legroom, Survey Says
Lauren Englisbe

Survey shows that travel discounts are of higher priority to passengers than extra legroom, priority boarding, and other perks.

A survey conducted by Chicago-based transportation firm GO Group, LLC, has found that travelers strongly prefer discounts over other perks when flying.

Organized by GO Group companies GO Airport Express, a ground transportation service, and GO Airport Shuttle, an international transportation provider, the survey showed that discounts far outranked legroom, priority boarding, and free food. Nearly 50 percent of respondents said they would opt for credit toward their next ticket purchase over the other incentives offered.

The survey presented a fictional scenario in which participants could choose from the four options. Ticket credit was the clear winner, followed by extra legroom at 32 percent, priority boarding at 11 percent, and free meals in last place at 9 percent. Over 850 men and women of different age groups responded; no significant differences were found based on age or gender.

Write-in responses were permitted. These showed that travelers were also interested in upgrades to first class, access to airport lounges, and the option to be the only passenger on a plane.

“Traveling economically still seems to be a priority,” said GO Airport Express president John McCarthy.

The GO Group, LLC, provides shared-ride shuttles and private cars at more than 60 airports worldwide. It is the United States’ largest airport transportation provider and serves approximately 13 million travelers each year. GO Airport Express is one of the oldest companies in Chicago, dating back to 1853 with the founding of the Parmalee Transportation Company.

[Photo: iStock]


View Comments (11)


  1. sfoeuroflyer

    October 26, 2015 at 10:44 am

    Of course this is true. That is why initiatives such as “more room throughout coach” did not work. What is tragic is the sense of entitlement that too many people have when they happily accept cheap fares and then complain about the lack of leg room. Of course you can’t have both, but that does not stop consumers asserting that they are entitled to both.

  2. vegasflyer

    October 26, 2015 at 11:17 am

    What are the demographics/psychographics of the respondents? Age and gender alone are not very reflective of a population. Are these Allegiant passengers?

  3. ksandness

    October 26, 2015 at 2:22 pm

    Did they interview only fliers under 5’6″?

    I’m a tall person who willingly pays for United’s Economy Plus.

    The airlines’ approach (“Take away every passenger amenity, because all they want is low fare”) is self-defeating.

    Imagine if the restaurant industry had done that when McDonald’s came on the scene. “Oh no, someone is selling hamburgers for 15 cents! We’d better drive them out of business by offering 15 cent steaks with table service, table cloths, real plates and silverware, and free refills on beverages.”

    Of course, they didn’t do that. They realized, as businesses other than airlines do, that there are tiers of customers. Restaurants realize this, car dealers realize this, apartment builders realize this, clothing retailers realize this, furniture dealers realize this, everyone except the airlines.

    They cover their miscalculation with a bogus excuse: “This is what the passengers want.”

    “This is what our lowest-income passengers want” or “This is what we have trained the passengers to want by taking away all amenities, so that only an idiot would pay more than necessary” is closer to the truth.

    The reality is that they want passengers to buy up to their overpriced business and first class services by making coach awful. I say “overpriced,” because while business class from Chicago to London is nicer than coach, it’s not seven times as nice, and first class isn’t twelve times as nice.

    As a last minute move, some airlines will let already ticketed coach passengers buy up to international business class for $500-600, which is probably a fair price.

    Unfortunately, the airlines now owe so many passengers so many upgrades (due to the idiotic step of making nearly every commercial transaction plus use of their credit cards eligible for miles), that they have to try to make up for the “free” upgrades somehow, namely, by overcharging the paid business and first class customers.

    I try to avoid the U.S. majors whenever I can. Deregulation became an excuse for the idiots to take charge.

  4. danielchee

    October 26, 2015 at 4:32 pm

    Did they include the side effects of each option? Priority boarding is not important until you have no overhead space to stow your luggage. Then you have to check your bags. Do you think they’ll continue to offer free plane side checked bags? Did they include pictures of a tall person sitting with his knee right up against the front seat? Oh and what happens when the person up front reclines?

  5. hdvargas1

    October 26, 2015 at 4:42 pm

    While I understand that fare prices have risen recently, I’m not a big fan of ultra cheap fares. Ultra cheap fares generally equate with fares featuring the most basic of airline service. However, one exception might be Jetblue. I’ve heard really good things about their overall service, and am interested to try them out!

    Generally, I would much rather prefer comfort and convenience. I’ve also found that booking premium domestic fares has its advantages. Sure, United domestic First isn’t on par with international First. However, it’s been worth it to me. Besides the comfort and convenience they offer, I’ve been lucky to have had very good experiences with them. In times of missed connections and weather delays, they’ve been very proactive at protecting my travel with alternate travel options. Recently in August when Houston had bad weather, I missed my connection there. However, they immediately booked me on another flight and everything was squared away by the time I landed. As if that was not enough, they had a backup ticket in case things went South (pun intended) due to inclement weather. (My final destination was McAllen MFE in South Texas).

    Pleasant surprises and many small gestures have gone a long way to win my loyalty. I’m not entitled to this. Rather, I’m grateful for it and it’s what keeps me coming back to book premium. I’m sure other pax have similar great experiences on other airlines when flying on premium fares.

  6. weero


    October 26, 2015 at 6:57 pm

    Well then the smart consultants who orchestrated this brilliant survey should convince the airlines to do away with E+, Business, and First cabins are a clear majority voted against them.

    This is not what the survey said? Then what DID it say?????

  7. Open Jaw

    October 26, 2015 at 7:17 pm

    I always focus on price first when purchasing plane tickets. Then I will check perks of each airline when the price is about the same. Of course, the destination is a very big part of the equation. I will never purchase a first class ticket from JFK to BOS but I will do so if I’m heading to PDX or LAX.

    I recently have been flying B6 a lot more due to their low fare deals. I have visited 10 cities in the last year or so without spending more than $130 for a roundtrip ticket. Most flights cost me about only $100. I fly out on the first flight in the morning and return on the last flight of the day. I never need a hotel or luggage and can visit the city’s major sites during my 8 to 10 hour trip.

  8. DirtyDan


    October 27, 2015 at 1:27 am

    You don’t need a survey to reach this conclusion. Just look any Y cabin; the airlines are selling people the product those people are willing to pay for. Capitalism at its finest.

  9. ioto1902

    October 27, 2015 at 7:01 am

    Another survey sold at a high price by consultants to comfort airlines in their preconceived ideas.
    Of course price is important. In front of the computer, you are very happy to have found a very low price. And then, once at the airport, reality catches you. Begins the “regrets” phase : I shouldn’t have done that, I knew there would be ancillary fees, I knew I’d be squashed between two seats, …

    They should do the survey on board. Results would be very interesting.

  10. danielchee

    October 27, 2015 at 7:02 am

    People checking in luggage or paying regular fares should get automatic refunds if their flights are delayed because the discount fare flyers couldn’t find overhead bins for their numerous bags and had to plane check their luggage. I hardly see delays due to lack of overhead bin space flying in Europe with their free checked bag policy.

  11. emsel

    October 28, 2015 at 3:23 pm

    Have you flew in Europe lately? I flew from ZHR to CPH on Swiss. I didn’t pay for checked luggage, because I bought my ticket in May. Any ticket bought after June 10th carries a checked luggage charge.

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