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Skyscanner reveals formula for the perfect flight

Skyscanner formula
Which matters more when booking a flight, convenience or cost?  Do passengers care more about an on time flight or the shortest flying time?  Is good food or spacious seating more likely to improve in flight happiness?  A study by global travel search engine Skyscanner now reveals the answers by applying mathematics to the question.  

Skyscanner surveyed over 2,000 international travellers on their flight preferences and then created a series of perfect flight guides as well as enlisted the help of Dr Eugenia Cheng, Senior Lecturer of Pure Mathematics at the University of Sheffield, to analyse the findings and create a mathematical formula that could help travellers to find the perfect flight:

The formula focuses on the factors that respondents cited as most important when booking a flight – time of day, punctuality and legroom – and when applied to flights, calculates a flight perfection scoring out of a possible 20 marks (15 in economy).  The perfect flight is one in the morning, with legroom of 40” and a punctuality score close to 100. 

T= Time of day
A massive 44% of travellers said the time of their flight was the most important factor when booking a flight and when asked which time of day they would prefer to fly more than half (52%) chose a morning flight, 27% would fly at night, while just over a fifth would opt for an afternoon flight.  A scoring of 10 points for a morning flight, 5 for an evening flight and 3 for an afternoon flight has been applied, aiming to reflect the weighting of these preferences.  

Top tip: Travellers only interested in flying at a particular time of day can use the search filters on Skyscanner so that only suitable flight times are shown in the results.

L=Legroom
Spacious seating was the feature that improved inflight happiness the most, with almost two thirds of participants (61%). The formula therefore penalises any flight offering a seat pitch that is less than 30” (a standard pitch in economy) and increases the score by one point for every additional inch offered, up to a maximum of 40”.  Most airlines can advise of the seat pitch offered on the aircraft used for a particular route, however a general guide is also offered by Skytrax.

P=Punctuality
The study also revealed that an on time flight is the most important factor for 38% of travellers.  Flightstats produces a report every year that highlights the best performing airlines in terms of airline arrival performance, and also provides a punctuality rating for all major airlines* split by month.  This allows passengers to see the percentage of flights that were on time for the corresponding month last year (when factors such as weather, number of flights etc are likely to be similar), to give an indication of the likelihood of their flight being on time. 

Top tip: To help passengers find a punctual flight, Skyscanner has also created this guide with tips on how to increase chances of booking a flight that is on time.

While spacious seating is the most important factor influencing flight happiness, many other factors also scored highly:
1. Spacious seating (61%)
2. Good food and drinks (48%)
3. No turbulence (44%)
4. Unoccupied seat next to you (33%)
5. Getting a good price (30%)
6. A great view (24%)

To provide insight and clarity on these areas Skyscanner has created a series of guides to assist travellers in finding all the elements they want on their perfect flight.  These include savvy tips on how to get the best flight prices, the routes that offer the best views and which seats to book to minimise turbulence and maximise the chances of getting a neighbouring empty middle seat.

Skyscanner’s Mary Porter commented, “Our study showed that there are many elements that passengers are looking for from their flight, other than simply the ticket price.  While you might not find a flight with a score of 20, we think this formula can really help in the search process to compare flight options to see which has the highest flight perfection score.” 

“For instance if one flight is £30 more than another, but actually it offers a more convenient take off time, the aircraft used will give more legroom, the airline has a greater punctuality record and it offers award-winning food, for many passengers this flight will offer better value for money.”

She concluded, “Helping travellers to find their perfect flight is central to what we offer at Skyscanner so this formula, along with the insight offered in our guides, simply enhances this.  We want to equip our customers with all the tools and knowledge they need in order to get the best flight for their particular wants and needs.”  

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