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Expedia 2014 LCC Airline Index examines Western European attitudes towards low-cost carriers

91% of Western Europeans willing to make sacrifices to save money when flying; Travelers under 35 years of age more willing to forego perks and fly longer on LCCs.

LONDON – Expedia.com released the results of the Expedia 2014 LCC Airline Index, a study conducted by Northstar that examined Western European traveler attitudes towards Low Cost Carriers (LCCs), a surging sector of the aviation industry. LCC airlines typically feature a single aircraft type, high utilization, low fares and limited perks compared to traditional airlines.

The Expedia 2014 LCC Airline Index asked 1,500 adults in the UK, Germany, France, Ireland and Spain to report on that tradeoff between fares and frills. What sacrifices would they be most/least willing to make in pursuit of the lowest fare? What types of trips are optimal for an LCC, versus a traditional carrier? What sorts of customer service do they expect on LCC? And what features are most important when selecting an LCC?

LCCs are booming in popularity. EasyJet and Ryanair are the two most popular LCCs serving Western Europe. 71% of Western European study respondents (and 99% of those from Ireland, where Ryanair and Aer Lingus are based) report having flown on an LCC in the past two years. The CAPA Centre for Aviation reports from the LCCs & New Age Airlines in North Asia Summit, September 2012, that between 2000 and 2012, approximately 130 LCCs were launched, with 70% still in operation. According to Morgan Stanley, LCC European market share has grown from approximately 14% in 2003 to almost 40% in June 2014. Expedia’s own data show that LCCs’ business has nearly doubled over the last 5 years, growing over 90% from 2009 to 2013, on Expedia sites worldwide.

The reason for Low Cost Carrier success in Europe is intuitive: low cost. The 2014 LCC Airline Index revealed that “saving money” is the top desire among European flyers. 36% of study respondents cited it as their prevailing concern, outranking “airport locations” (24%), “flight times” (16%) and other criteria. “Saving money” was most important across all countries in the study.

The Expedia 2014 LCC Airline Index asked Western European travelers which features they would be willing to sacrifice in order to save money. “In-flight entertainment” was first to go. The list includes:

In-Flight Entertainment:

65% (average across all countries)

Pillows and blankets:

63%

Snacks and beverages:

51%

Ability to choose seat in advance:

45%

Free checked luggage:

17%

Legroom:

16%

Bathroom privileges:

14%

Carry-on luggage:

12%

A full 29% of Spanish respondents reported a willingness to forego “bathroom privileges” in exchange for a low fare. Only 11% of Germans would give up legroom. Across all regions, flyers under 35 showed more willingness to give up on in-flight perks; 95% of under-35 travelers would forego at least one of the above perks, versus 89% of those 55 and older. Across all ages and genders, in-flight entertainment and pillows and blankets were considered the two least important perks.

LCCs Optimal for Weekend Jaunts
The Expedia 2014 LCC Airline Index asked respondents which trips would be most appropriate for an LCC flight. Weekend trips were most popular, honeymoons the least. Options include:

Weekend getaway:

78%

Family trip with at least 3 members
(for whom the traveler is paying):

42%

Friend’s bachelor/bachelorette trip:

39%

Company-paid business trip:

19%

International flight: 

16%

Honeymoon:

11%

Would never consider an LCC:

9%

Flight Distance Matters
45% of Western Europeans would consider an LCC for a flight time of up to three hours. For a flight approaching five hours, that figure drops to 23%, and tumbles thereafter. Only 3% of study respondents would fly an LCC for a flight up to eight hours long, and 1% would fly up to 12 hours. Younger flyers expressed more willingness to fly longer on an LCC, with 42% of under-35 flyers willing to fly more than three hours, versus 24% among those 55 and older.

Lowered Customer Service Expectations
The study revealed that 81% of Western Europeans expect to receive “much or somewhat better” customer service when flying with a traditional carrier versus an LCC. 77% report that they are willing to accept worse customer service in exchange for a cheaper seat. 82% of Spanish travelers – the highest figure – were comfortable with that tradeoff, versus 65% of the Irish. On the whole, 80% of European men were willing to accept worse customer service, versus 75% of European women. Under-55 flyers (80%) were more willing than those 55 and older (73%).

These expectations that customers will have to trade onboard amenities for low fares perhaps explain the ongoing reluctance of customers to consider LCCs for business travel with only 19% reporting that they would consider an LCC for a company-paid business trip. Despite ongoing attempts to attract business travelers with more flexible fares and additional services, it remains clear that the LCCs have significant work to do to convince business travelers that they are a good alternative to traditional carriers based at primary airports in many major European cities.

Theodore Koumelis
Co-Founder & Managing Director - Travel Media Applications | Website

Theodore is the Co-Founder and Managing Editor of TravelDailyNews Media Network; his responsibilities include business development and planning for TravelDailyNews long-term opportunities.

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