Aviation Index 2019 - public attitudes towards aviation in the UK

Ipsos's second Aviation Index survey for NATS (National Air Traffic Services) finds the public more likely to anticipate adverse Brexit-related impacts on flying, and keener on the industry delivering sustainable flying.

The author(s)

  • Lewis Hill Public Affairs
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NATS used the second Aviation Index survey to explore issues such as attitudes to flying, safety, choice of airport, as well as other aspects such as concern about terrorism, the impact of Brexit on air travel, and future changes to air traffic control.

Key findings and trends include:

Airline choice: if the price is right

  • Price remains the most important factor in choosing which airline to fly with. However, the time of flights appears to have fallen in terms of relative importance (from 82% to 79%), while on-board comfort and facilities have become more important factors than in 2018.
  • Seven in ten, 71%, agree they would never choose to fly with an airline with a bad reputation. However, only 38% agree that they would be willing to pay more to fly with a particular airline.

Brexit means… anticipated disruption to travel plans for many

  • One in five, 22%, say they are less likely to travel to EU destinations in the future because of Brexit, double the 11% last year.
  • A similar proportion (24%) say they have held off booking a trip or altered, postponed or cancelled plans to travel to the EU.
  • Younger adults and those who fly more regularly are most likely to say they have had to adjust travel plans in the run-up to Brexit.
  • In terms of anticipated impacts more generally, the public are far more likely to think the UK’s departure from the EU will have greater implications for border control (visas and queues) than for the numbers of flights between destinations, or a change in passenger rights.
  • Seven in ten think that flights between the UK and destinations in the EU will become more expensive (25% expect prices to go up a lot, 45% a little).

Flying seen as safer nowadays than it has ever been, but drones perceived as a ‘real risk’

  • Almost three in four think that flying is safer nowadays than it has ever been (73%, up from 63% last year) although the survey fieldwork was completed before the widely reported Ethiopian Airlines crash and subsequent reporting on the safety of Boeing’s new 737 MAX aircraft.
  • Terrorism is seen as the biggest risk to flight safety, followed by passenger behaviour and technical faults. Only 12% think drones are the biggest risk to flight safety, though 84% think they pose a real risk to flights during take-off and landing (up from 74% last year).
  • Most people also want the use of drones well regulated, with four in five who say that anyone who operates a drone should have to have compulsory training (81%) and a licence (also 81%).

People warmer towards airport expansion and support reform of flight paths

  • More agree than disagree that airport expansion in the UK is the right thing to do; 57%, up from 48% last year.
  • By a margin of nearly seven to one, the public support changes to flight paths when given a detailed explanation of why they are necessary (47% against 7%). They also agree (60%) that it should be given the same priority as high speed broadband rollout.

They prioritise the environment… but are cool on disincentives and personal impacts

  • Three in five think reducing emissions should be the priority for the aviation industry, an increase since 2018 (60% this year, 52% last year) and almost double the second most-mentioned priority (reducing noise).
  • However, comparatively few are willing to change their own behaviour. Now, 38% say they would be willing to pay a charge or levy when booking a flight to help protect the environment (32% say they wouldn’t), although this is up from 30% in 2018.
  • A smaller proportion are willing to accept more noise from flights paths above where they live (20%).
  • And by a margin of more than two to one, the UK public do not believe people should be discouraged from flying if they want to (47% against 22%) , even if this might have a negative impact on the environment.

Technical note

The research was conducted online through the Ipsos Online Panel. A total of 1,012 UK members of the panel aged 18+ took part between 4-7 March 2019.  Data are weighted to be representative of the UK population.


The author(s)

  • Lewis Hill Public Affairs

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