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Can Message Testing Cure a Pain in the Neck?

I'm 5'5" tall, and my neck hurts. No, not all the time, just when I fly. And why does my neck hurt? Simple. Most economy-class seats have stationary bump-out head rests. Now, I’m not quite sure why these headrests bump out like this, since travelers of differing heights will surely experience them differently. My particular problem is that I’m just tall enough to get the back of my head to the bump-out...which means that when I place my head against it it pushes my entire head forward and down. So my neck hurts.

My best solution so far is to buy a neck pillow and wear it backwards. This helps to prop up my chin, but the bump-out and the neck pillow are in a constant battle for supremacy, and usually the bump-out wins.

So what does this have to do with research? Plenty. I wanted to know if other airline passengers would get excited by the prospect of an adjustable headrest to accommodate their needs. Of course, everyone would be happy with something designed just for them, so we tested it alongside other potential cabin improvements to see where it would land.

CABIN IMPROVEMENTS TESTED:
Adjustable headrest to accommodate any size traveler
Denser seat cushions for added comfort
Folding foot rests to elevate your feet
Lumbar support built into the seat backs
More leg room than in a standard exit row seat
Roomier seats - 2 inches wider than most domestic airlines
Seats recline 5 degrees further than other airlines' seats
Tray tables with non-slip surface - better for gripping beverages

 

We surveyed our intrepid online research panelists, limited the pool to those who fly, and applied our Message Test Express™technique, which is a tournament-style method of having respondents make choices from a list of items. MTE delivers rank ordering with a numeric value so you can see not just how they ranked, but how close they were in the order.

So it turns out, adjustable headrests weren’t the number one desired improvement. Or number two. I was dismayed to find the adjustable headrest idea ranked number seven out of eight.

results of airline study using message test express

But I was only getting started... maybe only people around my height face this issue! We asked our panelists how tall they were, so we were able to cut the rankings by height. Sadly (for me anyway) it ranked #7 regardless of how tall they were. In fact, the rank order of items in my height group was the same as the entire passenger group surveyed. The shorter passengers, however, did differ on their preferences (though not for adjustable head rests). They ranked lumbar support (#3) and denser seat cushions (#5) higher and folding foot rests (#4) and reclining seats (#6) lower than their taller counterparts did.

So it looks like I’ll have to look for other ways to get the airlines to remove the bump-outs from their head rests. But in the meantime, I would be happy to get some more leg room and roomier seats....

VP / Research Management


Michele likes to hijack TRC's online consumer panel to get relevant answers to her burning research questions. She loves asking questions relating to her favorite hobbies - TV and movies, golf, casino gambling and travel - and more often than not the answers can be generalized across industries.


Contact Michele

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