Decisions, Decisions?An Exploration of the Decision-making Processes of Air Travellers Through Qualitative Research and a UK-wide Panel Survey.

Decisions, Decisions?An Exploration of the Decision-making Processes of Air Travellers Through Qualitative Research and a UK-wide Panel Survey.


J Edwards, A Smyth, University of Westminster, UK


Qualitative research and a UK-wide survey will offer insight into decision-making processes of air travellers. Findings will inform the development of a choice-based model of passenger behaviour for use by airlines, policy makers and stakeholders.


The decision-making process of individuals travelling by air is a complex subject area of research that has received relatively little attention from researchers. Air travel has undoubtedly reached a period of uncertainty in which the economic downturn, volatile fuel prices, pressure from environmentalists and growing competition from other modes of transport appear to play an intrinsic role in the future growth of the industry.

The implication for air travellers of such will become increasingly apparent in the short term. The need for airlines to comprehend the thought processes, perceptions, expectations and motivations of air passengers is therefore becoming ever more apparent to inform the business model and marketing strategies airlines adopt.

The purpose of the trip, cost, speed and schedule, availability, advertising and brand loyalty and cultural background are just some of many factors taken into consideration by individuals informing their decision to travel by air. The process is repeated in deciding what carrier to fly with, which departure and arrival airport to use and the choice between a selection of optional facilities and services (e.g. checked baggage and speedy boarding).

Moreover, in the case of discretionary travel, intending passengers may increasingly be supply-led by choosing a destination from those that have the right time or price availability from a suitable airport rather than selecting the destination first and then seeking suitable transport arrangements.

The different business models employed by full service carriers (FSCs) and low cost carriers (LCCs) will also be explored. The bundling of fares on FSCs and frequent services from major hub airports is far removed from the services generally offered by LCCs. The underlying concept of the low cost model is based upon servicing flights from secondary airports to lower costs, offering lower flight frequencies and charging individually for each component of the booking. These factors thus play an integral part in passengers choosing the air carrier that satisfies their needs best.

This research through a programme of qualitative fieldwork, supported by a UK-wide panel survey, will inform understanding of decision-making processes that air passengers evoke and use to inform their consequential travel behaviour.

The intention is for the combined results of the study to form the foundations of a choice-based model that will facilitate with informed understanding and forecasting, the most likely actions passengers will make based upon a number of likely options.


Association for European Transport