The study found that travellers experience seven different emotions when they fly: enjoyment, conviviality, belonging, security, control, empowerment and vitality.
Most travellers feel the need to start in control, often exhibiting behaviours such as ticking off check-lists and fibbing to partners by telling them the flight leaves earlier than it really does in order to get to the airport in plenty of time.
Once there, people continue with the control phase and are super organised. Documents are at hand (and regularly checked on), ready for each checkpoint. Travellers are already clutching their 100ml liquids in a plastic bag at security before being asked to and the time they have to spend in duty free has been calculated with precision in advance. They also take the time now to organise what items they will need to hand on the flight and what should be stored in the overhead lockers.
This need for ‘control’ now starts to intertwine with the ‘empowerment’ need. Regular travellers will know which seat they want and will employ the shortcuts they know to get through the airport more quickly. And many people take the opportunity for a final toilet stop before boarding.
Once on board the ‘secure’ and ‘belonging’ feelings kick in with fliers appreciating the tannoy announcement from the pilots, and a smile from the crew. At this stage most will arrange the space around them to their specifications.
This is when the ‘enjoyment’ and ‘convivial’ behaviours come to the fore, and there is a distinct theme of suspending normal life for fliers with many of them admitting to breaking their own norms and indulging in calorific food, drinking alcohol first thing in the morning and watching three films in a row ‘because they can’. Those travelling with others will use this time to eat together and many will watch the same films to share the experience.
The ‘vitality’ need – that desire to experience something new – rears itself at various points throughout the journey. It may manifest itself as planning activities, or being more open minded as to trying different foods. Excitement is a big factor too. The pods that transfer Terminal 5 passengers from the car park to the airport bring out the child in the travellers that use them. Equally, those flying with children pick up on their sense of excitement and for regular travellers something as simple as the start of a new month heralding a new selection in in-flight entertainment gives them a frisson.
Abigail Comber, British Airways’ head of brands and marketing said: “We all have our habits when we fly, be that constantly checking for our passport, turning up really early or watching back-to-back films on board, just because we can.
“Our customers are at the heart of everything we do, so we want to ensure we recognise how they feel at every stage of their journey and tailor our service to fit. To make sure they feel in control, it could be something as simple as reminding them that we offer mobile boarding passes, so they don’t have to worry about losing their ticket. To make sure they feel at home it may be in the welcome our pilots and cabin crew give. And for their enjoyment, it’s making sure we provide great food and entertainment.