While you might imagine that price is the most appealing factor for passengers on international flights, a new report has found otherwise in an analysis of the key elements that keep passengers satisfied.

A flight attendant serving customers on an airplane
Cost is less important than in-flight services when it comes to keeping passengers happy © Compassionate Eye Foundation/Justin Pumfrey

According to the J.D. Power 2019 Airline International Destination Satisfaction Study, great food, good customer service and a positive track record are the primary drivers of passenger satisfaction on international flights. It found that cost and fees are notably less important than in-flight services when it comes to keeping passengers happy. The study measures passenger satisfaction with airline carriers flying from North America to Europe and from North America to Asia. It is based on performance on nine factors, including in-flight services, cost and fees, aircraft, flight crew, check-in, boarding, immigration, baggage and reservations.

Two women eating on a plane
Food and beverage and in-flight entertainment are key to passenger satisfaction © Caiaimage/Rafal Rodzoch

While in-flight services – especially food and beverage – and in-flight entertainment are key to passenger satisfaction, their happiness with food and beverage offerings is currently lower than their happiness with in-flight entertainment options. The spicier the food, the better, was a message also received, probably because air travel temporarily changes your body chemistry and alters your taste buds. Refreshments can taste blander, and it has been previously noted that Bloody Marys taste great at altitude thanks to their umami-rich ingredients.

A hand holding a Bloody Mary on a plane
 It has been noted that Bloody Marys taste great at altitude © Jordan Siemens

“A low fare may be the best way to attract a first-time international passenger,” says Michael Taylor, travel intelligence lead at J.D. Power, “but retaining passengers on routes to Europe and Asia is all about delighting customers with great in-flight experiences. One of the most powerful ways to do that is with food and beverage offerings that are unique to the airline’s culture and that manage to deliver flavour at altitude, where it has been proven that taste buds grow less sensitive.”

For more information on the J.D. Power 2019 Airline International Destination Satisfaction Study, please visit here

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