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AARP Travel Research: Air Travel by Generations

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Among the 58% of Baby Boomers who traveled by air for leisure last year, only 14% reported the experience as stressful.  Other key findings from recent AARP Research on air travel showed:

  • On average they took 2-3 trips by air across all seasons of the year.

  • Neither mobility nor the need to compensate for a hearing or vision loss appears to be an issue for the majority of today’s Baby Boomer air travelers.

  • Overall, the causes of the most stress are flight delays, a lack of legroom on the flight, and getting through security at the departure airport.

  • Of those who do report high levels of stress associated with their most recent flight, most cite their experience at their departure airport (31%) as the most stressful aspect of their travel experience.

  • It appears that part of what causes stress related to air travel has more to do with the individual person’s demeanor than any specific set of behaviors.

    • Those who report being nervous about flying also report significantly higher levels of stress related to almost every aspect of the air travel experience.  However, they report similar, if not the exact same behaviors, as those who are not nervous about flying (e.g. arrival time, check-in options, activities prior to boarding, items brought for personal entertainment, etc.).
  • Baby Boomers are far more relaxed about air travel than are Millennials and GenXers with just 14% reporting their most recent trip as stressful, compared to 29% and 23%, respectively.  This trend is mirrored in the percent who are nervous about flying; 23% vs. 38% and 31%, respectively.

  • That said, for Millennials, part of their stress may also be caused by their behaviors.

    • Over 50% arrive at the airport with one and half hours, or less, before their flight departs. 

    • And therefore, Millennials are more likely to report going straight to their gate, rather than taking advantage of the airport amenities prior to flight.

    • Millennials’ nature to be ‘always on’ is no different when it comes to air travel, they report the highest usage of travel related apps (62% vs. 48% for GenX and 34% for Boomers), and are more likely than older generations to bring their own entertainment or work for in-flight distractions.

      • Which also puts them in the position to be the most likely to be looking for a power supply prior to their flight (41% vs. 35% GenX and 14% Boomer).

A 15-minute online survey was conducted among males and females age 18-plus who have taken at least one leisure trip by air in the past year.  The survey was fielded in April – May 2016.  Final data have been weighted to the U.S. Census for analysis.  For more information contact Vicki Gelfeld at VGelfeld@aarp.org.

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