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Asian passengers shaping long haul economy air travel: report

Research shows comfort is key to Asian passengers


February 13, 2014
by Travel Management Canada Staff

SINGAPORE-Airbus has published a research report about the comfort demands of Asian economy class passengers. The Future of Comfort: Asia, conducted by global future consultancy Future Laboratory, looks at the evolving demands of Asian air passengers.

Airbus forecasts that by 2032 the Asia region will account for 45 percent of global passengers; this will make them the dominant flyers of the 21 Century shaping the future economy class experience, the report says.

The research reveals two emerging typologies of Asian travellers who, due to the rise of social media and shared global online experiences, have an increased knowledge of flying and will demand an enhanced level of comfort:

  • New emerging affluent travellers are first time careers, aged between 18 and 34, knowledgeable and impressed by services and add-ons; and
  • High-income frequent travellers are more experienced flyers, in the middle of their career and focus on personal time and comfort in the strictest sense, with seat width playing a key factor in their perception of comfort.

Whilst their comfort expectations vary slightly, there is a clear commonality on the importance they place on a number of factors, the report says:

  • Sleep, wellbeing and relaxation lead to higher productivity. This is of particular relevance in Asia, where emerging markets are opening up business opportunities and 70 percent of travellers in economy class are flying for business in Asia (highest percentage globally). Asian passengers believe that the chance to rest on a flight unlocks higher levels of productivity, as opposed to the western view of seeing this time as a chance to catch-up on work. A productive flight is seen by the Asian flyer as one where they can relax (78 percent), sleep (58 percent) and then work (56 percent)-in that order.
  • Asians would pay more money for more seat space as it symbolises improved comfort and brings more relaxation. The majority of Asian consumers (58 percent) believe that the seat itself is the top factor affecting their sense of comfort when flying; 60 percent believe that wider seats are the top requirement for “improved standards of comfort” and 42 percent would pay more for increased seat width. Wider seats improve views of on-board productivity (53 percent) followed by more legroom (48 percent), adjustable seating (43 percent), quiet zones (42 percent), and increased arm room (37 percent)
  • Service levels motivate Asian economy class passengers to book a flight with a particular airline brand. Better cabin service is the top factor influencing future booking decisions.

The report also identified three future macro trends for comfort demanded by the Asian market:

  • The Always on Cabin-Wifi enabled cabins with telephone and conference calling facilities will be seen as a pre-requisite to the large volumes of Asian business passenger travelling to unlock business opportunities in a world of 24/7 access;
  • 3D technology-3D is expected to be offering more immersive film and shopping experience on board.
  • Energizing Cabin-According to the study, Asian flyers say that greater in-flight wellbeing allows passengers to relax and unwind, which are seen as key to productivity.

“The voice of the Asian passenger is fast becoming the dominant voice in the aviation industry and will dictate the future of flight,” said Kevin Keniston, Airbus’s head of passenger comfort. “This new research clearly shows that comfort is paramount to satisfying the needs of long haul travel for the Asian population now and in the future.”