Most Americans who fly at least once a year would be willing to pay for extra legroom on a flight of three hours or more and over half would be willing to pay more to avoid sitting in a middle seat on a flight of the same length ‒ as long as the additional fee is $50 or less.
A new Harris Poll of 2,276 U.S. adults has found that 58 per cent of the 834 respondents who typically travel by commercial airline one or more times per year would pay more to have extra legroom on a flight of three hours or more, while 53 per cent would pay more not to have to sit in a middle seat.
However, only 3 per cent of respondents said they would pay more than $50 for extra legroom on longer flights and 3 per cent said they would pay more than $50 to avoid sitting in a middle seat.
Most people surveyed by the poll said they would not be willing to pay more either for extra legroom (67 per cent) or to avoid a middle seat (68 per cent) on flights of less than two hours. But half of the survey respondents said they would be willing to put up with a chatty person next to them in order to be in a seat with extra legroom.
The survey indicated similar trends when asking if passengers would be willing to pay more for a seatback in-flight entertainment system and in-flight Wi-Fi on longer and shorter flights.
While 47 per cent of respondents said they would be willing to pay more for seatback in-flight entertainment on a flight of three hours or more, only 24 per cent said they would be willing to pay more on a flight of less than two hours.
Similarly, 44 per cent of respondents said they would be willing to pay more for in-flight Wi-Fi on flights of three hours or more; but only 26 per cent indicated they would be prepared to do so on flights of less than two hours.
Again, virtually no-one said they would be willing to pay more than $50 for seatback in-flight entertainment or in-flight Wi-Fi, even on longer flights.
Survey respondents were also asked to provide their top two choices of amenities on a flight, from a list provided by Harris Interactive.
Perhaps surprisingly, given continuing in-flight connectivity trends, the availability of in-flight Wi-Fi only came fourth on the list.
The most desired choice was a window or aisle seat (chosen by 53 per cent of those surveyed), followed by extra legroom (35 per cent). In third place as a desired amenity was a basic selection of free snacks and beverages.
But while 59 per cent of women chose a window or aisle seat as among the most important amenities, only 48 per cent of men regarded this as very important. Similarly, although 27 per cent of women respondents regarded availability of free snacks and beverages as highly important, only 20 per cent of men did.