The UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has today published the third and fourth waves of its consumer tracker. 

The CAA commissioned Ipsos MORI, an independent research organisation, to conduct research into UK consumers' flying behaviours and their attitudes towards aviation

The research, which began in the spring of 2016, reveals that passengers enjoy flying, but have become less satisfied over the past two years. We believe this shows how the industry is getting it right in many areas, but needs to work on others, such as provision for disabled passengers and those who experience disruption.

Levels of trust and satisfaction with aviation have fallen

An important finding from the research was slowly, but steadily declining levels of consumer satisfaction with flying. Overall satisfaction levels have fallen from 90 per cent in the first wave (in March 2016) to 86 per cent in the latest wave (October 2017). The percentage of those who claim to enjoy air travel also fell - from 57 per cent two years ago to 53 per cent in the latest wave.

More recently, there has also been a decline in people's trust of the aviation industry. The percentage of consumers confident that they would get the service for which they have paid fell by four points between the third and fourth wave (March and October 2017, respectively), from 61 to 57 per cent. The percentage of consumers confident that they would be treated fairly should things go wrong in October 2017 was 44 per cent.

Restoring satisfaction and trust

To tackle falling levels of consumer satisfaction and trust, we believe that industry needs to concentrate on getting the following things right:  

Reducing common problems - the industry needs to do more to reduce overcrowding and long queues at airports, and to consider taking action on disruptive behaviour. 

  • Common problems (such as delays, long queues and overcrowding) are key drivers of dissatisfaction, with those who experienced these things on their most recent flight 7 per cent more likely to disagree that they enjoy flying (22% compared to 15% of recent flyers overall).
  • 45 per cent of people experienced disruption on their last flight.
  • Crowding and long queues at airports (19%), and flight delays (16%) were the most common problems while delays at immigration and long waits for luggage were the most dissatisfying (67% were dissatisfied with how delays at immigration were handled and 62% were dissatisfied with the way long waits for luggage were handled). 
  • 18 per cent of flyers have experienced (either directly or indirectly) aggressive behaviour when flying over the past three years.
  • Passengers who experienced aggressive behaviour on their last flight were typically 9 per cent less satisfied with their last flying experience. 
  • Delays of longer than an hour impact consumers' level of frustration. 71% would feel very frustrated by a delay of up to two hours, and 37% would question whether they would use the same airport or airline again.
  • A delay of up to 4 hours would make 79% of consumers consider flying with a different airline or from a different airport next time.*

Fixing things when they go wrong - The industry must keep consumers better informed and catered for when things go wrong, and get better at handling complaints.

  • 56 per cent of those surveyed were not satisfied with the information provided to them when things go wrong. 69 per cent were not satisfied with the arrangements made to look after them. 
  • 18 per cent of those with grievances consider formally complaining, but almost half of these (46%) don't end up bothering. The main barrier to formally complaining is the belief that it will take too much time and effort (stated by 55% of those who considered making a formal complaint but did not go ahead with it) - something true of both airline and airports' complaints processes and Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) - a second tier complaint handling mechanism. 
  • Less than a third of people are satisfied with the complaints handing process, but more are satisfied with Alternative Dispute Resolution processes.* In the third wave (March 2017), 27 per cent of those who complained but did not escalate to ADR were satisfied, compared to 55 per cent of those who did escalate to ADR.

Improving assistance for all passengers with disabilities - The industry must get better at providing assistance for all PRMs and helping them to understand what they can expect.

  • In October 2017, 10% of disabled passengers were dissatisfied with the assistance they received. 
  • Those with hidden disabilities (61 per cent of all disabled respondents*) have a worse experience of assistance and are more pessimistic about their experiences of flying improving in the future. 
  • 60 percent of those requiring assistance would choose their departure airport based on the assistance available, but only half of this group feel well informed about the levels of assistance available at different airports.*

This independent research will help inform the CAA's work to put consumers' interests at the heart of the way it regulates the aviation market.

* Unless otherwise stated, statistics are drawn from data from the fourth wave of the tracker survey. Statistics followed by an asterisk draw on data that was collected only as part of the third wave of the survey. 


  • A total of 3,504 interviews were conducted for wave 4 between 13th September - 6th October 2017 and 3,507 interviews were conducted for wave 3 between 23rd February - 15th March 2016. 3,007 interviews were conducted online and 500 were conducted over the telephone for wave 3 and 3,002 were conducted online and 502 by telephone for wave 4. 
  • This mixed methodology approach was adopted to make the survey as inclusive as possible.
  • For the online interviews, participants were used from Ipsos' online panel.  For telephone interviews, these were conducted mainly through random digit dialling approach, but some targeted sample was also included.
  • Interview quotas were set to reflect the UK adult population in terms of gender, age, region and working status.  Where the final number of interviews did not exactly match quotas, weighting was then applied to the final data according to these criteria.
  • The questionnaire was designed to average 12 minutes online and 15 minutes by telephone.  To keep the telephone interview length to a minimum, some questions were only asked on the online survey and not the telephone survey.  This is highlighted in this report where this is the case.
  • This research has been conducted in accordance with Ipsos MORI's standards and accreditations.


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For further information contact the CAA Press Office on: 0207 453 6030 or