Lonely Planet Writer

Is the tide turning for cheap flights? Survey says passengers find no thrills in no frills travel

The novelty of no-frills cheap air travel may be wearing off, at least according to a new survey.

Ryanair famous for no frills travel.
Ryanair famous for no frills travel. Image by Andrew Thomas / CC BY-SA 2.0

A major study on international passengers has revealed that most airline passengers are more than happy to spend a little bit more money on extras to make their journey more pleasant. According to the research, travellers are generally willing to spend up to US$100 (just over €90) on “ancillaries” to improve their travel experience. The study was carried out by global travel tech company Sabre by interviewing 1500 passengers from twenty different countries around the world. It found that 80% of travellers purchased at least some air extras on their last trip, spending around $62 on better seats, checked bags, or services on board. When asked if they would spend a little bit more to make their trip even more personalised, most said yes suggesting they would be happy to spend up to $100 to improve their travel experience.

University study shows that cabin crew and other frequent flyers could be more prone to skin cancer. Image by Christopher Doyle / CC BY-SA 2.0
Passengers are more interested in paying for perks than before. Image by Christopher Doyle / CC BY-SA 2.0

Interestingly, the amount extra people were willing to pay differed hugely depending on what region of the world the person came from. Passengers in Africa were already spending an average of $95 on extras and were willing to bring that up to $144 to enhance their journey. In North America, travellers spend around $44 to personalise their flight but would be willing to double that to $88 to improve it further. European travellers were somewhat less inclined towards paying extra, indicating they would be willing to spend $82 (or €74 in local money) compared to their current average spend on extras of $55 (€50).

The things most sought after by passengers were cabin class upgrades, extra legroom, preferred seating, and on-board food and drink. Other popular extras included in-flight Wi-Fi and extra checked baggage. Dino Gelmetti of Sabre said: “it’s clear that while there are regional differences in preferences, 80% of all travellers spend on air extras, representing a significant revenue opportunity for airlines.” The research also showed other big differences among regional travellers with 48% of people in Latin America still preferring to get the help of a consultant or travel agent to plan and book trips, compared to just 33% in Europe. Passengers in Africa were the fastest at planning their trips, with 33% saying they spent less than a day organising them, compared to 12% in Asia Pacific.