[Consumer study] How do consumers choose airlines?

We wanted to find out: How do consumers choose airlines? Is price most important, comfort, the route, or maybe the loyalty program? This study of U.S. consumers has the answers.

"The main factors I consider when choosing airlines - definitely the comfort level and if there's a direct flight."

The methodology

We completed the entire study of 100 respondents through Voxpopme’s community of on-demand consumers in five hours.

We combined quantitative and qualitative questions in the study in the platform, and the platform neatly packaged the results in one dashboard.

overview of consumer study on how consumers choose airlines

airline consumer study

As a screener question, we asked:

When was the last time you traveled by airplane?

  • This week (advances into the survey)
  • This month (advances into the survey)
  • In the past year (advances into the survey)
  • More than a year ago

On the quantitative side, we asked:

How do you pick your airline?

  • Price
  • Direct route
  • Comfort
  • Schedule
  • Loyalty program
  • Other

On the qualitative side, we asked:

  • What are the main factors you consider when choosing an airline?
  • Tell us why those factors are the most important and which was the last airline you used considering these factors.

The results

Here’s a quick highlight reel of responses:

The quant results

Fifty-one percent of travelers say they choose their airline by price, 17 want a direct route, 14 percent make comfort a priority, 9 percent of consumers choose airlines based on the schedule. Eight percent mentioned loyalty programs.

Overview of what matters when people pick their airline


The qual results

Respondents in our video research recorded a quick asynchronous video message for the qual questions – selfie-style, directly from their phones.

The automatic sentiment analysis showed that 38 percent of all statements were positive, with 43 percent neutral and 19 percent negative.

cosumer sentiment

Unlike the quant questions – which are self-reported answers – this sentiment analysis pulls from what respondents said in their video responses.

Read next: How Natural Language Processing helps us understand consumers better

The automatic theme explorer and Word Cloud gave me an idea of some of the most mentioned topics.

At times, I also use the Theme Builder and my knowledge of the subject to build and group themes for topics that I consider related.

The analysis

Then I skim through the automatic transcripts and each response.

consumer feedback on choosing an airline

For some consumers, the decision also didn’t come down to one or the other. Price was important, but so was the routing, for some as they considered choosing an airline.

For many, it’s a hierarchy. For example, a convenient schedule was important but once that was in place, consumers were looking for a fair price.

Some consumers mentioned customer service in their spoken responses as being important. Others mentioned the need to be on time.

“I don’t want delays. I don’t want airlines that cancel their flights all the time,” said Jennifer, 48, of Kansas City.

Sometimes the choice depends on which airline hub a consumer lives nearby.

“So the schedule is a big one for me,” said Joe, 38. “I like to have as few layovers as possible, and a lot of airlines they only make the trip I want to take every couple of days. I’m in Salt Lake, which is a hub for Delta. So I often end up on Delta, but price is always a big one.”

And it’s not only about the time onboard but the whole travel experience.

“When picking an airline, my main factors would be price, schedule, comfort,” said Megan, 31 of Gastonia. “And I guess on comfort, not just on the plane but also at the airport.”

Read next: What are conversational insights?

Where to next?

As a follow-up study, it might make sense to dive deeper into each category:

  • What do you consider a good price?
  • When it comes to comfort, what aspects are most important? Leg room, seat width, amenities, airport lounges, etc.
  • What specifically could improve the loyalty program?

Read next: How you can use video surveys for your next project!

What’s a question you’d like to ask consumers?