Expedia Finds How Americans Fly Differently Than Travelers Worldwide

Published on : Thursday, January 21, 2016

expedia-300x102Expedia.com, one of the world’s largest full service online travel sites1, today released the results of the Expedia Passenger Preferences Index, a worldwide study that examines the preferences and behaviors of fliers around the world. The study was conducted on behalf of Expedia by Northstar, a globally integrated strategic insights consulting firm.

Northstar asked 11,026 travelers across 22 countries in Asia Pacific, Europe, North America and South America a broad range of questions, including which paid amenities they would prioritize on flights of different length, how they prefer to pass the time, their opinions on baggage fees and packing, and more.

Additional insight on the Expedia Passenger Preferences Index can be found at Expedia’s Viewfinder blog.

“Paid amenities are now a fact of life in flight, and Expedia set out to examine how the world views and prioritizes them,” said Greg Schulze, Senior Vice President, Global Tour and Transport, Expedia.com. “We found that fliers in some nations, such as Mexico, appear to be comfortable paying for extra amenities, but Americans are still somewhat resistant.”

One third of Americans we surveyed (33%) have flown three to five times over the past two years. 20% have flown 6 to 12 times. Four percent of Americans have flown more than 24 times for either leisure or business travel in the past two years, the third-highest percentage worldwide, trailing only Norwegians (6%) and Mexicans (5%).

Americans Avoid Amenities

On flights of fewer than three hours, Americans are less likely than almost every represented nation to pay extra for amenities. Study respondents were shown a range of amenities – including meals, extra leg room, entertainment, higher fare class, alcohol and more – and asked to select the ones that they would prioritize on flights of different length.

On short-haul flights, Americans are most willing to pay for seats with extra leg room. 21% of Americans would pay for the perk, versus 24% of fliers worldwide. Only 15% of Americans would pay for “a full meal,” versus 26% worldwide. 45% of the Chinese were willing to pay for a meal in that situation. However, 13% of Americans would pay for alcohol on a short flight, higher than the 10% global average.

As flights increase in duration, American wallets loosen. On long-haul flights (between 7-12 hours), 49% of Americans would pay for a full meal, 41% would pay for extra leg room and 20% would pay for alcohol. Americans are also among the likeliest fliers worldwide to pay for an aisle seat on a flight of this length, with 16% preferring the perk, second only to 17% of Singaporeans.

About one quarter, or 24%, of American travelers would upgrade to first- or business class on a flight between 7-12 hours, on par with the global average. The likeliest fliers worldwide to pay for this perk are from Mexico, at 43%. The least likely are from Canada (15%).

As flight durations grow, more Americans expressed a willingness to pay for a child-free “quiet zone” within the plane, an amenity that is not yet widely available. 8% of Americans would pay for that privilege on a flight shorter than three hours, but that percentage more than doubled, to 18%, on flights exceeding 12 hours. Worldwide, the likeliest fliers to pay for a quiet zone on 12+ hour flights hail from Mexico (41%), Thailand (38%) and Taiwan (37%).

On a flight of 10+ hours, Americans report that they would largely pass the time by sleeping (79%). 63% would read and 62% would eat. 51% would utilize in-flight entertainment options, while 45% would listen to music or a podcast. 21% would consume alcohol. 13% of American fliers would pass the time on a long flight with the aid of prescription medication. 8% would meditate.

Water and a Mobile Device the Single Most Important In-Flight Items

Expedia Passenger Preferences Index respondents were offered a lengthy list of items and asked to select five that they felt they “could not live without” on a flight. Among Americans, water occupied the top slot, cited by 43% of respondents. A phone/mobile device was seen as the second most-important in-flight asset, at 33%. 26% of Americans could not fly without headphones, 24% prioritize a meal, and 22% need magazines/newspapers.

13% of Americans say they could “not live without” prescription medication on board a flight, and 9% selected alcohol. Worldwide, Australians topped the list of in-flight alcohol fans, with 14% putting it among their top 5 flying essentials.

Baggage Fees, Carousels Avoided

67% of American travelers say they “avoid baggage fees at all costs,” just under than the global average of 70%. 52% say they specifically pack lighter to avoid them. 57% of Americans avoid checking a bag so they will not have to wait at the baggage carousel. Almost one in two – 48% – do not check a bag out of fear it will be lost.

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