Aviation Index 2018 - public attitudes towards aviation in the UK

Ipsos MORI 'Aviation Index' survey for National Air Traffic Services (NATS) reveals UK public's attitudes to flying.

The author(s)

  • John Kennedy Ipsos Public Affairs, UK
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Ipsos MORI was commissioned by National Air Traffic Services (NATS) to undertake research with the UK public in relation to their attitudes to flying. As well as giving greater insight into views and experiences of the airline industry, the survey also focused on many of the future innovations and changes to regulations and infrastructure in the industry in the coming years. NATS used the survey insights 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 to destinations outside of the UK, and future changes to air traffic control. The results provide a baseline to track changes in attitudes in future.

Key findings from the survey include:

  • The UK public are more positive than negative about their overall attitudes to flying, with a greater proportion who agree rather than disagree that they enjoy flying (52% compared with 21%) and that flying is safer than it has ever been (63% agree compared with 4% disagree).
  • The balance of opinion is also favourable towards reform in the aviation sector. More agree than disagree that airport expansion in the UK is the right thing to do (48% compared with 15%). Support for changing flight paths (49%) is also much greater than opposition to this (6%).
  • Cost and convenience are important points in how flying is considered. Among those who have ever flown, the price of tickets is the main factor in their choice of airline (82%) and the journey to the airport is the main factor in the choice of airport (71%). On balance, participants are reluctant to pay more or travel further for a better service.
  • However, survey findings also show that almost one fifth of people would travel further to fly from a specific airport in order to receive better service.  Given that over 280 million passengers  travelled through a UK airport in 2017, this equates to potentially millions of people who would be attracted to an airport that wasn’t their nearest if they believed that passenger experience would be better.
  • Speed and efficiency of service are given greater significance than environmental protection. For example, considerably more participants say planes should be able to fly over Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty if it means reducing flight times and emissions (40% agree compared with 24% who disagree). However, participants are keener to see residential areas protected (45% agree that these should be avoided even if it lengthens journey times and uses more fuel, compared with 21% who disagree).
  • There are mixed views about extending the use of drones. Most (80%) agree they support the use of drones if this helps the emergency services. However, the balance of opinion is negative in other respects, with more who agree than disagree that drones are a nuisance, sometimes infringe personal privacy, and pose a safety risk to flights. 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 (79%) and a licence (78%).

Technical note

The research was conducted online through the Ipsos MORI Online Panel. A total of 1,002 UK members of the panel aged 18+ took part between 16 and 22 November 2017.  Data are weighted to be representative of the UK population.


The author(s)

  • John Kennedy Ipsos Public Affairs, UK

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