Economy Cabin Passengers prefer cheap flights over airline perks airplane
Credit: Getty Images

The number one mantra for travelers seems to be “the cheaper, the better.”

While airlines may try to entice travelers with upgrades like extra legroom and priority boarding (all for an extra fee, of course), passengers may be more interested in saving a buck wherever they can when they fly, according to a new poll.

According to the Reuters/Ipsos poll released this week, 83 percent of Americans put ticket prices among their chief priorities when booking personal travel, even more so than travel perks or an airline's reputation.

In fact, 60 percent of respondents said they would not even pay extra to avoid being assigned the dreaded middle seat. (It's really not worth a couple dollars to avoid hours fighting over the armrest?)

About 52 percent said they would not pay more to fly on their preferred airline.

Seeing an opportunity for charging extra fees on previously included services, airlines are implementing no-frills airfares for minimal travelers. Some of these “basic economy” tickets, which airlines like American, Delta and United now offer, have no advanced seating assignment, no option to upgrade, and sometimes do not allow passengers use of the overhead compartment for bags.

The survey also found evidence of distrust of big airlines among passengers. About 53 percent of respondents said airlines prioritize profits over passenger safety, despite excellent safety records.

Although the survey shows travelers' preference for cheap airfare, the airlines' revenues from extra fees paints a different picture: Airlines are raking in tens of billions of dollars in extra fees each year. So when push comes to shove, perhaps passengers are willing to pay for that extra room (and baggage and priority check-in).