Study: El Al benefits from fear of flying
University research shows travelers feel safer traveling with El Al rather than other lower-priced airlines.
El Al airplanes sit on the runway Photo: Ronen Zvulun / Reuters
Although Israeli travelers are always keen to get the best price for a flight,
researchers at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and two other institutions
have found that those worried about terrorist attacks or accidents are willing
to pay more for their tickets, choosing El Al for its security instead of
The research was published recently in Journal of
Travel Research. The survey was designed by Dr. Anat Tchetchik of the
Beersheba university’s department of hotel and tourism management at the
Guilford Glazer Faculty of Business and Management; Prof. Aliza Fleischer of The
Hebrew University; and Prof. Tomer Toledo of the Technion-Israel Institute of
Technology. It assesses respondents’ choices for airlines and itineraries based
on the impact of their fear of flying.
They claimed it is the first study
to integrate the psychological factor “fear of flying,” or FOF as a variable to
determine, among other factors, passengers’ flight itinerary
“Due to accumulation of media exposure of flight accidents,
fear of flying is on the rise, even though statistics show that air travel is
the safest means of travel,” said Tchetchik.
For a growing number of
travelers suffering from FOF, air travel is a stressful and unpleasant
experience, they said. Back in 1978, it was estimated that that the cost to the
domestic US air travel industry was $1.6 billion in lost revenue.
the public makes its choices on mode of traveling and how it affects willingness
to pay for alternative flight options is an issue of immense concern for public
agencies and the industry,” the researchers wrote.
The team questioned
335 Israeli students and offered each several menus of alternative flight
itineraries from Israel to London and Israel to New York. The itineraries
differed by several factors, among them the carrier conducting the flight,
specifically EL AL, Delta, Israir, Thomson and British Airways, whether the
flight was a non-stop or connecting flight, whether it departed during day or
night time, and the price.
The researchers found that those with greater
fear of flying were more willing to buy tickets from EL AL, the formerly
government-owned national carrier, rather than a foreign carrier or a charter.
They were also willing to pay more for a day flight than a night flight and for
a direct one than a connecting one.
Sometimes, the differences ranged
from tens of dollars for the London flight into the hundreds of dollars for the
New York one.
“For instance, respondents suffering very high levels of
fear of flying were willing to pay $558 more to fly EL AL rather than Delta to
New York,” she said.
While it is recognized that those suffering from FOF
may use alcohol and sedatives or engage in special workshops to alleviate their
fears, this study confirms that fearful flyers may choose other strategies to
alleviate actual risk and perceived risk.
Ninety-two percent of fatal
accidents occur during take-off or landing, so a direct flight might make more
sense to those with FOF. Preferring scheduled carriers over charters or low-cost
carriers, however, is likely to be based on perceived risk since no official
data supports the claim that scheduled carriers are safer than charters, they
The preference for home carriers “might also be related to a safer
image among passengers from the same nationality but we believe that its major
advantage is the better help these carriers can provide to passengers suffering
“Passengers with fear of flying can get more help from a
crew from their own country because of better communication. The reduction in
barriers such as language and social and cultural norms can be helpful in times
Tchetchik and colleagues suggested that there are
operational conclusions from their research. Public agencies should be
publishing safety-related information in an accessible manner so that the public
can make its choices based on actual scientific data rather than unsubstantiated
beliefs, they said.
As for the travel industry, with the downturn because
of rising fuel costs and a weak global economy, the study could help airlines
segment their market into domestic and non-domestic passengers and charge
accordingly, they concluded.