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Poll pinpoints passengers’ air travel gripes

Would you believe that some airline passengers actually prefer the middle seat? That was just one of the facts in an annual survey of air travelers by TripAdvisor, the big website of traveler reviews. Here’s another, not nearly as surprising: Passengers hate paying extra for things.

The survey of 2,000 respondents singled out uncomfortable seats and insufficient legroom as the top consumer complaint about flying on commercial airlines—but it also found that they aren’t willing to ante up too much to improve conditions.

Some 38 percent said extra legroom would be the best thing the airlines could provide to improve the overall experience. But 44 percent said they have never paid to get a better seat assignment; 85 percent said they wouldn’t pay more than $25 for a better seat on a domestic flight, while 81 percent said their limit was $50 to get one on international routes.

The survey found that 58 percent of respondents prefer aisle seats, while 42 percent opt for the window—and 4 percent said they prefer the middle seat.

Saving money was a big theme among the passengers surveyed. Four out of five said they would forego all airline-provided in-flight entertainment if it meant they could fly for less, while 63 percent said that if airlines were to offer a “quiet section,” they wouldn’t ante up any kind of fee or surcharge to sit in it.

Expensive airline tickets and fees ranked second on the survey respondents’ list of gripes about air travel, followed by flight delays, long waits insecurity lines, and “other passengers (e.g. loud children),” TripAdvisor said.

Among the fees they hate to pay, respondents ranked checked baggage charges as number one, followed in descending order by fees for carry-on bags (assessed only by two low-fare airlines at present); fees for seat selection; the charge to print a boarding pass at the airport; and the cost of in-flight amenities.

About one-fourth of those polled said the availability of in-flight Wi-Fi would affect their choice of airline, and 37 percent said their tablet or iPad was “a carry-on essential,” up five percent from a year ago. The survey also found an increasing use of smartphones and mobile devices to check flight status (56 percent), check in for flights (38 percent) and research fares (36 percent).

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