Airline Fee Impact, Economy vs Luxury

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Airline Fee Impact, Economy vs Luxury

There is no available quantitative research that discusses the motivations of the premium class traveler. Qualitative articles suggest that the motivations for electing to fly premium class vary depending on the type and purpose of the travel. Perhaps surprisingly, it is the less tangible perks like privacy, convenience, and comfort rather than the food, entertainment, and increased luggage allowances that seem to motivate people to choose a premium class fare.

The Experiential Traveler

  • Personal fulfillment is one of the overarching themes in the luxury travel market. For some travelers, the reason they choose to travel first or business class is to accumulate memories. The air travel is as much of the overall travel experience as sitting on a beach watching the sunset.
  • The President of Ovation Vacations, Jack Ezon, said "What I see most is the changing nature of the bucket list, focusing more on personal goals and immersive experiences that people really want, instead of a specific destination. So, within the travel adviser trade community, we need desperately to work on our service and the way we provide personalization."
  • He goes on to say, "Personalized connectivity with luxury consumers before, during, and after the consumer luxury product experience drives loyalty. Loyalty points are primarily for business travelers these days."
  • The luxury traveler can be divided into three overarching profiles. They are the ultra-high-net-worth luxury traveler who will always seek the best of everything, the high net worth traveler who doesn't always want to travel luxury, and the aspirational traveler trying luxury for the experience or a special occasion. The business traveler is another separate category.

The Reddit Review

  • Recently a group reviewed Reddit responses to determine the aspects of first and business class that motivated travelers to pay the higher price. The responses were varied.
  • The lie-flat seats, which enable the passenger to sleep comfortably, especially on long haul flights and the extra legroom that comes with the first-class seats, were seen as a perk that justified the cost by some.
  • Other people commented on the better boarding experience that comes with flying in a higher class. The opportunity to get on the plane, get organized and relax comfortably before other passengers were considered a perk worth the fee.
  • Privacy was a motivator for some, with the pod structure considered a valuable perk. Not having to disturb other passengers to use the bathroom was a bonus.
  • Peace, quiet, and the ability to have a shower (on some airlines) were other perks that were viewed as motivators for flying a higher class.
  • The food, including an onboard chef on some flights, free drinks, proper cutlery, and complimentary toiletries, were other perks noted by Reddit users as being essential in the first-class experience.

The First Class Experience

  • The overwhelming theme of many articles discussing reasons for choosing to fly first class was the comfortable, streamlined travel experience, encompassing the privacy, comfortable seats, and the ease around boarding and disembarking.
  • It was noted that the additional fees economy passengers are required to pay concerning seat allocation, food, entertainment, and luggage combined with the lower business class fares make choosing to fly a higher class more appealing for some consumers. This was more of a consideration on international flights.
  • Another article concluded that the perks most passengers consider justify the premium ticket were the reduced stress, space to work, easy boarding and disembarking, pre-boarding lounges and the additional onboard amenities such as showers and snack options.
  • Interestingly several articles noted that for some passengers, the networking opportunities that present with a premium ticket as justify the price. Many passengers described the premium cabins on an aircraft and the pre-boarding lounges as the ultimate networking opportunity.
  • For the long-distance traveler, the perks that are consistently mentioned relate to comfort (legroom, seats becoming beds, showers, and privacy) and ease of travel (check-in, lounges, and boarding and disembarking). Very few travelers considered the increased luggage allowances a noteworthy perk.
  • The convenience of a premium class fare is a factor for many business customer. For the business traveler where it is crucial, they arrive at the destination fresh, the convenience, privacy, and peace and quiet of the premium cabin are invaluable. These factors are more relevant to this class of traveler than the increased food, drink, and entertainment options.
  • The space to work comfortably was also a key contributing factor for the business traveler when buying a premium fare.

First Class vs Business Class

  • First impressions of first and business suggest that the level of comfort in terms of seat size, ability to board and disembark easily, frequent flyer miles, and free alcoholic drinks are all the same. The primary difference between the two classes is the level of luxury.
  • The main considerations between the two are the distance of travel, the airline (different airlines offer different levels of luxury), and the airport experience required.

Research Strategy

To determine what motivates travelers to fly premium classes, we first reviewed a range of industry publications and studies around travel. We hoped that these sources would contain information from surveys of travelers, which would address questions around motivations and provide some clear metrics. Unfortunately, this was not the case. Several industry reports discussed the benefits of premium travel over economy class, but few delved into the motivations of the consumers when making their choices.

We expanded our search to include media publications, airline surveys, and travel industry expert articles as often details of smaller, less public surveys and studies are contained in these sources. An article summarizing the views of Reddit premium class travelers provided some useful insights, as did an article discussing the different types of premium class travelers. We managed to locate some sources that explained the reasons why travelers elect to fly premium class. Although these articles did not have specific metrics or rely on particular research, we were reassured as to there value by the consistent findings. The articles that we have relied on and the conclusions we have drawn consistently appeared in the majority of sources we reviewed.
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