Concerns about Covid-19, budget constraints and fears about flight disruption are the most common barriers to travel, according to research by the UK Civil Aviation Authority.
The regulator’s annual UK Aviation Consumer Survey, conducted in October 2022, found that Covid-19 concerns remains one of the most prevalent barriers to flying. Some 32 per cent of those who haven’t flown in at least the last 12 months (between October 2021 and October 2022).
Despite the proportion of consumers citing concern about COVID-19 falling markedly some 32 per cent of those who hadn’t flown in at least the last 12 months cited this as a reason and it is still a concern among a significant proportion of those aged 55 and over (38 per cent).
The UK Civil Aviation Authority’s survey found that nearly one-third (29 per cent) of consumers who have not flown recently, cited the cost of travel in light of budget constraints as a barrier to flying.
Budget constraints were a bigger barrier to flying among younger people (36 per cent) compared to those aged 55 and over (20 per cent). Those aged 18 to 34-years-old are also significantly more likely to use ‘Buy Now, Pay Later’ schemes to spread the cost of their holidays.
The survey also found that just 1 in 5 (20 per cent) of those who have been impacted by the rising cost of living say they will not make any changes to their flight behaviour, while around two in five UK adults are either planning to reduce the amount they fly (24 per cent) or not to fly at all over the next 12 months (19 per cent).
Concern about flight disruption and cancellations was the third biggest common barrier to flying (15 per cent), with the proportion of those who flew experiencing some form of disruption increasing to nearly two-thirds (61 per cent), the highest proportion since the regulator began tracking in 2016.
Crowding at an airport (23 per cent) and flight delays (22 per cent) are the most prevalent forms of disruption faced by consumers, while COVID-related issues declined. Those who experienced travel issues or disruption were also significantly less likely to be satisfied with the overall travel experience than those who did not (73 per cent vs. 89 per cent).
The UK Aviation Consumer Survey also found overall satisfaction slightly declined (from 82 per cent to 80 per cent), but the proportion of consumers saying they are ‘very satisfied’ with the overall travel experience fell considerably (from 39 per cent in October 2021 to 29 per cent in October 2022).
Other UK Aviation Consumer Survey findings:
- Those who flew in the 12 months to October 2022 and required assistance for themselves or for others are slightly less likely than average to be satisfied (78 per cent and 76 per cent respectively).
- Disabled passengers who flew are significantly less likely than those who have not to say they find airport and flying experience difficult.
- A third (32 per cent) of disabled passengers say they are more likely to request assistance compared to pre-pandemic.
- Satisfaction with value for money declined sharply from 76 per cent in October 2021 to 68 per cent in October 2022. Satisfaction with complaints handling also saw a significant decline to 52 per cent in 2022 from 71 per cent in 2021.
- More than half (54 per cent) of those who have flown in the last 12 months took measures to save money on their trip.
- 3 in 4 consumers say that they have confidence in the safety of UK airlines and airports (73 per cent agree), in line with the levels of agreement recorded pre-pandemic.
- The majority (83 per cent) of consumers think that it is important their holiday is ATOL protected.
The UK Civil Aviation Authority's research looks at UK consumers’ behaviour and attitudes towards commercial aviation, which it uses to help inform its work to put consumers’ interests at the heart of the way it regulates.
Paul Smith, Consumer Director at the UK Civil Aviation Authority, said:
“Concerns about Covid-19 remained a big issue, with our research telling us that some consumers had a continued fear about the pandemic itself, although there was a strong recovery in the number of passengers travelling in 2022.
“While it is welcome to see passenger numbers continue to steadily rise, we saw the challenges the aviation sector faced in the summer of 2022. The disruption experienced unsurprisingly put some people off flying due to fears of flights being disrupted or cancelled, with satisfaction levels also reducing.
“Our UK Aviation Consumer Survey provides a good indication as to how consumers are feeling, so it is particularly important the industry focuses on providing a better experience for consumers this year, and as the sector continues to recover in 2023, we would like to see satisfaction levels improve.
“As we move away from pandemic-related restrictions, the rising cost of living has the potential to have a major effect on the flying behaviour of consumers, with many looking to take measures to save money on their trip. We will continue to play our part in making sure consumers have choice, value for money, and are treated fairly when they fly.”
Notes to editors
The UK Civil Aviation Authority is the UK’s aviation regulator. We work so that the aviation industry meets the highest safety standards and consumers have choice, value for money, are protected and treated fairly when they fly.
Most aviation regulation and policy is harmonised across the world to ensure consistent levels of safety and consumer protection. Worldwide safety regulations are set by the International Civil Aviation Organisation.
The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) commissioned Savanta, an independent research organisation, to conduct the eleventh wave of its UK Aviation Consumer Survey 2022. 3,500 interviews were conducted for the research, with 3000 of these being online and 500 conducted via telephone between the 10 and 31 October 2022. Data were weighted to be representative of all UK adults by gender, age, region and working status. The data is used by the UK Civil Aviation Authority to develop a deeper understanding of UK consumers’ flying behaviours and their attitudes towards the aviation industry.
Flight disruption is defined by the list of factors reported by respondents listed on page 41 of the full report. This includes issues such as flight delays, delays in taking off after boarding, and delays for luggage.
Previous UK aviation consumer surveys can be found here.