Air Passenger satisfaction in the UK in decline with handling of disruption and delays the biggest issues

A new study from the United Kingdom’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has revealed that overall consumer satisfaction with flying has fallen over the last two years. The latest UK Aviation Consumer Survey, the fifth survey of its kind to be carried out in the last two years, discovered passengers were found to be particularly unhappy with how airports and airlines respond to disruption and delay.


  • Overall consumer satisfaction with flying in the United Kingdom has fallen over the last two years, a latest survey for the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has revealed;
  • The UK Aviation Consumer Survey shows proportion of satisfied customers has dropped seven percentage points from 90% in spring 2016 to 83% in spring 2018;
  • The key finding was that passengers are particularly unhappy with the way airports and airlines respond to disruption and delays;
  • The report also highlights significant regional differences across the United Kingdom in levels of consumer satisfaction.

The CAA’s survey is an investigation of UK consumer behaviour and attitudes regarding flying, which is used to help inform its work to put consumer interest at the heart of its regulatory activity. This latest edition was compiled from a total of 3,500 interviews which were conducted with a demographically representative sample of UK adults in Mar-2018 and Apr-2018.

The key finding was that passengers are particularly unhappy with the way airports and airlines respond to disruption and delays, with the proportion of satisfied customers dropping seven percentage points from 90% in spring 2016 to 83% in spring 2018.

While delays and disruption can be caused by a range of different factors, many of these are within the direct control of airlines and airports. “Whatever the cause, these delays can be frustrating for passengers,” says Tim Johnson, director at the UK CAA. “We expect airlines to always provide prompt and accurate information and if passengers are entitled to further care and compensation, this should be provided without delay.”

Interestingly, there were also significant regional differences in consumer satisfaction with the overall travel experience during their last flight, with people in Wales, the East Midlands and the East of England less satisfied than those in the North East, Scotland and the North West. This range from a 76% satisfaction level in the East Midlands, up to 89% in North East England.

SEE THE FULL REPORTThe full 83-page document of the UK CAA’s analysis from ComRes, an independent research organisation, can be viewed here: UK CAA Aviation Consumer Survey.

The survey respondents also revealed that their onboard experience had the strongest impact on airline satisfaction levels, with passengers typically less happy with the in-flight experience than other aspects of flying. They’re also becoming less content in this area, with a 77% satisfaction level versus 81% in 2016.

Despite the worsening findings, the UK CAA does acknowledge there are signs that the aviation industry is working to improve how it deals with dissatisfaction with the results of the survey suggesting that industry is making progress on how it responds to complaints and treats those with grievances.

It shows that consumers are now more confident of fair treatment should things go wrong (50% of consumers feel they will be treated fairly should things go wrong, up six percentage points from Autumn 2017), while satisfaction with complaint handling is at its highest recorded level, with 64% of those consumers who made a complaint happy with the process – up from 53% in Autumn 2017 and 50% in Spring 2017.

On another positive note, the overall proportion of UK adults who say they enjoy travelling by air has increased compared to Autumn 2017, with six in ten agreeing with this statement (58%). One in five disagree with this statement (18%), in line with levels recorded in each of the previous waves.

However, there were notable differences in the enjoyment of travelling by air across different demographics: younger UK adults are more likely than their older counterparts to agree they enjoy travelling by air (61% 18-34 vs. 56% 55+); men are slightly more likely than women to agree with this statement (60% vs. 57% respectively);Those with higher incomes are more likely than those with lower incomes to agree with this statement (64% >£50k vs. 58% <£50k); and non-disabled passengers are more likely than those who are disabled to say that they enjoy travelling by air (61% vs. 50% respectively).

Other headline observations from the survey included:

  • Passengers are likely to feel safe flying into and out of the UK, and also to find that security screening is sufficiently convenient. Three quarters of UK adults (74%) say they have confidence in the safety of UK airlines and airports, with fewer than one in ten (8%) disagreeing;
  • Three in five think the balance between security and convenience is about right. The 14% who do not find the balance between security screening and convenience to be right are likely to say there is too much focus on security screening (68%). Around one in five feel there is too much focus on convenience (22%);
  • 39% agree that the experience of travelling by air is getting better – with a plurality believing the experience to be staying about the same;
  • UK adults are similarly as likely as in Autumn 2017 to say they are confident in the safety of UK airlines and airports (74%) and that they enjoy travelling by air (61%);
  • UK adults also appear to have become more conscious of the environmental impact of flying: there has been a slight increase in both the proportion who say they think about the impact of flying on the environment (28% vs. 22% Autumn 2017) or who would pay more for flight tickets to reduce the environmental impact of flying (28% vs. 24% Autumn 2017).

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