Young people aged 18 to 34 years old are leading aviation’s revival compared to other age groups according to a new consumer trends report from the UK Civil Aviation Authority.

Nearly two-thirds (65 per cent) of young people said they had taken a flight in 2023 compared to less than half (47 per cent) of those aged 55 and over who said they had. This is a 10 percentage point increase from 55 per cent before the Covid-19 pandemic.

Before the pandemic, those aged 55 and over were the most frequent flyers, with 58 per cent flying yearly.

The findings come as the regulator publishes its annual Aviation Consumer Survey, which details trends in consumer behaviour and attitudes towards flying. The survey informs the UK Civil Aviation Authority’s work to put consumers’ interests at the heart of how it regulates the industry.

The survey of over 3,500 people also found a considerable increase in the number of consumers now likely to take more than one flight a year, with 70 per cent of those flying in 2023 having flown several times. This is up from 65 per cent in October 2022, and a significant increase from the November 2020 figure of 49 per cent.

The UK Civil Aviation Authority also examined factors such as the rates of consumer satisfaction and concerns about the environmental impact of flights, with the latter growing in concern in the last five years.

Only 44 per cent of consumers said they were concerned about the environmental impacts five years ago, but present-day concern grew to 76 per cent. However, only seven per cent of passengers who had not flown in the previous 12 months indicated that this was due to their environmental concerns.

Satisfaction with consumers’ most recent flying has steadily declined since the survey started in 2016 and currently sits at 79 per cent.

Satisfaction decreased most sharply among people aged over 55 and disabled people. Satisfaction among older passengers fell from 86 per cent to 78 per cent from 2019 to 2023, and among disabled passengers decreased from 82 per cent to 74 per cent in the same period.

The divide also aligns with digital confidence, with responders who consider themselves confident when using electronic devices remaining 80 per cent satisfied with their experiences in 2023, whereas the satisfaction of less digitally confident passengers fell from 71 per cent to 66 per cent compared to last year.

Last year, the UK Civil Aviation Authority published a report calling on airlines to do more to drive improvements in digital accessibility across the aviation sector, as passengers increasingly rely on websites and apps as their main point of access to the aviation market.

Anna Bowles, head of consumer at the UK Civil Aviation Authority, said: “It is encouraging to see air travel among younger demographics on the rise after the impact that Covid-19 had on aviation, and that passengers are returning to the skies more frequently.

“However, the continued decline in satisfaction with the overall travel experience shows that the industry needs to do more to ensure that they understand the expectations of their passengers and that they are meeting these.

“The survey also shows that passengers with disabilities and older passengers have been more reluctant to return to travelling by air since the Covid-19 pandemic. It is vital that, particularly in the ever-evolving digital evolution of the travel industry, those with disabilities and older passengers are not left behind by the sector.

“The findings of the Aviation Consumer Survey are a timely reminder to industry that accessibility must remain a priority across the board, and that we will continue to hold airlines and airports to account to protect consumers.”
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