TripAdvisor's now-annual survey of air travelers has revealed which travel technologies respondents are most appreciative of.
The survey asked 4,300 US travelers about the state of air travel, with 93% of respondents saying they will take at least one domestic flight in 2014. This is up from 89% last year, and also includes a boost in international travel: 63 percent are taking flights abroad this year, with only 55 percent saying so last year.
Here are the other results:
Booking and boarding technologies improving
When asked about improvements in the air travel experience, the majority of respondents were happy to see a more efficient process:
Lack of comfort is biggest complaint
- 38%: More streamlined check-in process
- 36%: Easier booking
- 32%: More streamlined security process
- 28% More streamlined boarding process
- 25%: Better in-flight entertainment options
Comfort continues to be the greatest concern, again beating out the cost of additional fees.
The interesting component here is that the unbundling of fares means that travelers could pay more for increased comfort - effectively adding to the number two complaint in order to alleviate the number one complaint. This is profitable positioning for the airlines, but less so for increasingly grumpy air travelers.
Here are the respondents' main complaints of air travel in 2014:
- 73%: Uncomfortable seats / limited legroom
- 66%: Costly airline fees and ticket prices
- 45%: Unpredictable flight delays
- 35%: Long security lines
- 32%: Loud / crying children
Following along with these concerns, 35% of passengers said that increased legroom would improve the air experience and 32% asked for more comfortable seats. And among those who identified children as an issue, there were 42% of respondents that would actually pay an increased price to be in a child-free section.
The recent trend towards slimmer seats - which reduce overall weight to save fuel costs while also theoretically increasing legroom - was not popular with those surveyed. Most likely this is due to the fact that the slim profile reduces the amount of cushioning available, often making it feel as if one is sitting on top of a bare metal frame rather than a padded seat.
Of the 32 percent who have tried the new slimmer seats, 62% said the seats were less comfortable and 7% said they were more comfortable than traditional seats. A minority of respondents, 28%, were unable to tell the difference.
Mobile increases in importance for air travelers
Passengers are finally increasing usage of mobile for research purposes. After languishing for some time, 48% of respondents have used a smartphone to research flights - this is up 12% from last year.
In addition to research, the more obvious use cases have mainstreamed:
- 69% have checked flight status with a mobile phone, up from 56% last year
- 55% have checked into a flight via mobile, up from 38% last year
Although more travelers are carrying smartphones, a vast majority are not paying for WiFi - 90% have rarely or never purchased that add-on amenity.
Travelers are also overwhelmingly against seatmates making phone calls: 81% oppose an FAA allowance for in-flight cellphone use.
Tablets are an essential item for slight majority
As far as travel must-haves, here's the breakdown of the items that respondents saw as necessities:
NB: Tablet image
- 77%: Reading materials
- 53%: Medication
- 52%: iPad/Tablet
- 49%: Tasty snack
- 31%: Hand sanitizer