Research reveals evolving priorities for passengers

09 October 2019

Price is the most important factor when choosing an airline, however on-board comfort and facilities are becoming ever more influential according to a study of passenger attitudes by air traffic service provider, NATS.

The NATS Aviation Index, now in its second year, shows passengers are placing growing importance on the quality of on-board facilities, with a quarter of people now citing it as one of the most important from a list of factors, up from 15% in 2018.

Similarly, more than seven in ten people (71%) claim they would never fly with an airline they felt had a bad reputation, pointing to service, reliability and performance as the biggest concerns. And while only 38% of passengers said they would be willing to pay more to fly with a particular airline, it is a proportion that has grown 11 percentage points since 2018.

Juliet Kennedy, NATS operations director, said: “It is perhaps unsurprising that people remain price sensitive when booking a flight, but it is striking to see the growth in other factors and in the number of people who would pay more for a flight if they thought they would get a better flying experience.

“Our role in NATS is to provide a safe, reliable and resilient air traffic service so all our airline customers can offer the best possible experience to their passengers.”

Last summer, NATS handled almost a quarter of all air traffic in Europe, but contributed only 2.6% to total delays, with the average delay per-flight less than a third of the European-wide level.

Investment in new technologies has helped play a role in that performance. In 2015 NATS introduced time-based separation for Heathrow arrivals, something that has cut headwind delays by 62%, while this spring it began use of satellite-based surveillance over the North Atlantic. Both were world firsts that are radically transforming how air traffic is managed.

Kennedy continued: “We’re investing £1bn in new technology, but that won’t be enough to keep pace with growing demand. That’s why we’re recruiting the next generation of air traffic controllers and playing a leading role in cross-industry plans to modernise UK airspace, something that will both cut carbon emissions per-flight and increase capacity and resilience across the industry.”

The Aviation Index is NATS’ annual temperature check survey of public opinions on aviation related topics. Carried out by Ipsos MORI, it looks at issues from the impact of Brexit to safety and the environment.

The full report can be read at


Note to editors

Ipsos MORI interviewed 1,012 adults in the UK aged 18+ between 4 and 7 March 2019. Interviews were conducted online through the Ipsos MORI Online Panel. Data are weighted to be representative of the UK population. Trend results are based on the previous Aviation Index survey, where Ipsos MORI interviewed 1,002 adults in the UK aged 18+ between 16 and 22 November 2017, with data weighted to the same profile.

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