More than half of flyers believe air travel is more stressful than a day’s work, and only slightly less find it more stressful than a trip to the dentist

3 March, 2020

There has been numerous recent studies that have highlighted how regular travel can impact the health and wellbeing of corporate travellers. These are normally centred around how travel and being away from home can impact our routines, how we rest, how we exercise and how we eat. However, new research suggests that it could be the actual air travel experience that is as much to blame.

A survey from travel experience platform The Points Guy has found that more than more than half (55%) of recent flyers, those who have flown on a commercial airline in the past two years, think the process of air travel (booking tickets, packing, going to the airport, flying, etc.) is more stressful than going to work. On the flip side, just 17% said going to work was more stressful than air travel.

The results are from a sample of over 2,300 adults in the United States of America, of which just under half had flown on a commercial airline at least once in the last two years. Of that sample, more than two in five (44%) described the air travel process as being more stressful than going to the dentist.

A similar sample size said air travel was more stressful than spending the day with in-laws, and more than half 55% said the same about spring cleaning. Over one-third (37%) said air travel was more stressful than filing their taxes, and a similar number (35%) said that same about sitting driving tests.

While the travel experience can be stressful, the findings are rather surprising and much higher than you would perhaps have expected. It certainly opens the door to further investigations and something the whole air travel supply chain may need to consider as it seeks to better meet traveller expectations.

When looking at the results from the other side filing taxes (27%), going to the dentist (26%), and going to the Department of Motor Vehicles (24%) were most likely to be considered more stressful than air travel. Respondents were noticeably less likely to find spending the day with in-laws (15%), going to work (17%), and spring cleaning (19%) to be more stressful.

With ancillaries the new norm in air travel, The Points Guy research also investigated how much travellers would be willing to pay on top of their ticket price to improve their flight experience, based on a six-hour, USD500 roundtrip basic economy flight. Coming out the highest, almost two thirds (63%) of recent flyers said they would be willing to pay extra to avoid a layover/get a direct flight. They were on average willing to pay USD88 more for the convenience, more than any other option.

Over half (60%) said they would be interested in purchasing more legroom or a more comfortable seat and were willing to pay USD58, while two in five would pay to avoid a delay (42% and USD56) or to skipping the security line (41 and USD46). Just under a third (31%) would pay an average of USD45 to avoid waiting for baggage at reclaim, or for early boarding (30% at a premium of USD55).

Additionally, the survey highlighted that for those who haven't flown in the past two years but have in the past, cost is mostly to blame (39%). Another 34% have not travelled anywhere in the last two years where flying was an option, 15% think it's too stressful, 13% believe it's not a comfortable way to travel, 10% blame fear of flying and 4% think it takes too long, with 17% stating other reason.

The findings also confirm - where you would probably expect some correlation - that those who have never flown commercially are more than twice as likely to cite fear of flying as the explanation (23%).