September 30, 2008 / 5:53 AM / 11 years ago

Most passengers prefer to choose airline seat: survey

SINGAPORE (Reuters Life!) - Where you sit is crucial to air travelers, with a global survey finding three-quarters of passengers would like to be able to change unsatisfactory seats, and those next to the window are the most popular.

A passenger aircraft flies against the backdrop of monsoon clouds during the evening in New Delhi July 11, 2008. REUTERS/B Mathur

The poll of more than 10,000 respondents in 13 countries showed that two-thirds of travelers had a seating preference, with 41 percent saying a bad seat would ruin their flight.

Filipinos were the least fussy about their seats, while Thais were the most particular, according to the survey by global market research firm Synovate.

Sixty-three percent said they preferred window seats.

“In an ideal world, travelers would always get to select their first choice seat prior to departure. That is tough though, especially given current flight loads,” Sheri Lambert, senior vice president of travel and leisure, said in a statement.

“It’s one thing to not like your seat when you are on a short 45-minute flight. Most of us can deal with that. But it’s entirely another thing when you are cramped and miserable across the United States or traveling even farther afield.”

Seat mates are also very important for many passengers, with a little over a third of respondents, especially women, saying they would prefer to sit next to someone of their own sex.

And contrary to what many parents believe, two-thirds of respondents said they do not mind sitting near children.

The survey was conducted in July, after several airlines were imposing fuel surcharges due to high oil prices but before the global financial markets meltdown triggered by Wall Street.

Asked what the extra costs would make them do, 39 percent of travelers — the highest percentage — said they would look into budget airlines, but not curtail their travel plans.

But the real test for the airline industry would come during the traditionally slower winter season, Synovate UK CEO Michelle Norman said.

“With a rocky economy and the traditionally slower winter period approaching, we may see some carriers running a little emptier and suspending some routes,” she added.

Although more passengers are using other means to transport to reduce the polluting effect airlines have on the environment, planes remain the most popular way to getting places quickly and easily, according to 56 percent of respondents.

“The whole travel process has to be efficient or people start to reconsider whether the trip is even worth it — not a mindset the airlines want to encourage,” said Lambert.

The study was conducted in July 2008 using online, telephone and face-to-face methodologies.

Editing by Alex Richardson

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