Travelers Who Book Basic Economy Tickets Are Actually Happier With Their Flights, Study Finds

They do care about seat comfort, however — even more than in-flight Wi-Fi.

Airplane Passenger Preferences
Photo: Cristóbal Alvarado Minic/Getty Images

There’s almost nothing worse than being crunched into a tight middle seat on a long flight, your knees hitting the back of the seat in front of you, struggling to get comfortable. Unfortunately, this is very much a reality on many planes.

Turns out, at Travel + Leisure we’re not alone in valuing comfortable seats above all else. In fact, a new report by travel organizing app TripIt showed fliers rated a good seat as six times more important than quality Wi-Fi.

The report analyzed 1 million flight ratings from June 2018 to June 2019 based off travel on TripIt’s app.

While we live in an increasingly digital age, Kelly Soderlund, a travel trends expert at TripIt, said finding good, quality Wi-Fi on a flight is “rare.”

“At this point in time, most travelers don’t expect it, so it doesn’t as drastically alter their perception of their flight,” Soderlund told T+L. “I would expect to see this change over the next few years, because we do know travelers want high-quality Wi-Fi, so it’s an interesting little conundrum.”

She added: “At the end of the day… if they’re going to be happy with their flight, they want to know they got what they paid for.”

In that same vein, the report found travelers were happier overall with basic economy tickets compared to standard economy. Soderlund said with some airlines, it’s difficult to show the more expensive economy ticket is demonstrably better.

“There are so many ticket types these days,” she said. “What the data is really showing is travelers in basic economy know what to expect and they feel like they got their money’s worth. Sometimes in economy you get lost in a no man’s land, you’re not really sure what you paid for.”

But flying isn’t always about the quickest way to get somewhere and how to do it on the cheap. Sometimes, travelers also want a bit of luxury — especially when it comes to international airports.

The report found TripIt travelers ranked Doha’s Hamad International Airport in Qatar the top international airport in the world, followed by Taiwan’s Taoyuan International Airport and Tokyo’s Narita International Airport.

“When [travelers] fly to far off places, when they arrive at an airport, they really want to be wowed,” she said, adding airports like Doha’s “just take it to another level. It’s so innovative, the architecture is stunning. And you just really feel like, ‘Wow, I’m somewhere else.’"

“When you’re flying domestically, it’s a more transactional nature,” she added.

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