The formula for the perfect flight

Time of day, punctuality and legroom important for booking ideal flight

Mixed race businesswoman looking out airplane window

The perfect flight takes place in the morning, with 40 inches of legroom and a punctuality score close to 100, a new study on air travel has revealed.

The research, by global travel search engine Skyscanner, used mathematics and surveyed over 2,000 international travellers on their flight preferences before enlisting 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 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 per cent 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 per cent) chose a morning flight, 27 per cent 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.

L= Legroom

Spacious seating was the feature that improved inflight happiness the most, with almost two thirds of participants (61 per cent). The formula therefore penalises any flight offering a seat pitch that is less than 30 inches (a standard pitch in economy) and increases the score by one point for every additional inch offered, up to a maximum of 40 inches.

P= Punctuality

The study revealed that an on time flight is the most important factor for 38 per cent of travellers. Flightstats produces a report every year that highlights the best performing airlines in terms of airline arrival performance.

While spacious seating is the most important factor influencing flight happiness, many other factors also scored highly, including good food and drinks (48 per cent), no turbulence (44 per cent), unoccupied seat next to you (33 per cent), getting a good price (30 per cent) and a great view (24 per cent).

Take a look at the infographic below to see if the formula works.

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