Ash crisis has put one in five off flying, says Mintel

Fear of disruption due to volcanic ash could discourage one in five UK adults from flying this summer, according to consumer research.

Market researcher Mintel suggests 2.8 million have decided not to fly “as a direct result of the ash cloud”. It suggests an additional 4.7 million are undecided and that another 2.4 million had already decided to stay at home.

The Mintel survey also found 7% of respondents more likely to book a package holiday to ensure they are looked after in the event of disruption and 8% saying they would take out extra insurance. Mintel suggests these figures represent 2.8 million and 3.2 million consumers respectively.

Tom Rees, senior travel analyst at Mintel, said a return to “normal” holiday behaviour might have been expected after many consumers decided to holiday in the UK last year due to the state of the economy.

“However, 2010 is turning into anything but a normal year,” said Rees. “The Eyjafjallajokull volcano is continuing to cause disruption and air strikes are also playing a part in denting consumer confidence.”

However, travel industry analyst GfK Ascent-MI’s most recent snapshot of bookings to the end of April – after the major shutdown due to ash – suggested the holiday market remained stable, just 2% down on last year in line with the picture at the end of March.

A separate Mintel survey found consumers rate extra leg room the single most important optional extra on a flight – 39% would chose it over anything else on a journey under four hours and 56% on a longer flight. One third wanted a choice of seats even on a short flight and 28% hot drinks and beverages – suggesting a sizeable minority are dissatisfied with the no-frills model.

One in seven consumers wanted a child-and-baby-free zone on flights.

Mintel surveyed 2,000 UK adults on the impact of volcanic ash in May and 1,745 on their choice of optional extras.

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