Air Transport World

Finding the key to passenger preference.

Why do passengers prefer some airlanes over others? This simple question has befuddled airlines and manufacturers for as long as there has been an airline industry. Now, researchers at Boeing Commercial Airplane Group believe they have unlocked the key to this puzzle, at least for some kinds of travel. Klaus Brauer, project director-marketing, is confident that Boeing understands the key variables that contribute most to passenger enjoyment on flights of 2-5 hr. within the U.S.

He tells ATW that the findings draw on three years of data from surveys that take in 90,000 responses annually from U.S. domestic travelers, "which causes the data to be very predictable, very repetitive and very reliable." The surveys were done by noted travel-industry researcher Stan Plog.

The U.S. domestic market was selected as a laboratory for a number of reasons, according to Brauer. Unlike other regions, where passenger preferences tend to be aligned toward national flag carriers, very little customer loyalty exists in the domestic U.S. market. Also, no single aircraft model is associated with a particular airline. "If you were to have one very good airlines as the only operator of a type, clearly, that would bias the numbers," he points out. Finally, the U.S. domestic market is very big, accounting for roughly a third of all airline travel.

In analyzing the market, Brauer looked at passenger preference among six actual aircraft types operating in the 2-5-hr. …

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