Are You a Hypocrite When Choosing an Airline?

For all our gripes about legroom and nuisance fees, most of us still base our purchases on price alone.

If you were to extrapolate from travelers’ complaints about air service, you’d be tempted to assume that their primary concerns when choosing airlines were legroom (more not less), nuisance fees (fewer not more), and frequent-flyer miles (more not fewer).

A new survey just released by paints a very different picture. An overwhelming 86 percent of the 1,145 U.S. adults polled placed price as their highest priority when shopping for flights. Checked-bag fees — another determinant of price — were next, at 55 percent, followed by direct flight routes, at 48 percent.

Legroom, which has been so much in the news lately, was deemed important by just 34 percent of the respondents.

The survey drills down into the relationship between price and legroom, focusing on what could be an emerging trend, Economy Minus — instead of paying more for a few extra inches of legroom, as in Economy Plus, pay less for less legroom.

Among survey respondents identified as frequent flyers, 22 percent said they were very likely to buy Economy Minus seats, and 25 percent were somewhat likely to do so.

Notwithstanding travelers’ willingness to sacrifice comfort for price, 50 percent cite cramped seating as among their top gripes, and 59 percent agreed with the statement “Seating is already too small and should not be further reduced.”

Nobody said that consumers were rational or reasonable.

Reader Reality Check

What are your top concerns when booking a flight?

This article originally appeared on

By Tim Winship

After 20 years working in the travel industry, and 15 years writing about it, Tim Winship knows a thing or two about travel. Follow him on Twitter @twinship.

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