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Does the secret to travel happiness lie in in-flight wi-fi and a smile from your flight attendant? According to a new survey from marketing and forecasting firm JD Power & Associates – it might.

Taking into account responses from more than 11,800 passengers, the group’s 2013 North America Airline Satisfaction Study calculated which air travel factors affect passenger satisfaction, including costs and fees; in-flight services; boarding, deplaning and baggage; flight crew; aircraft; check-in; and reservations. Passengers who were greeted by airline staff with a smile reported satisfaction scores between 105 and 211 points higher than those who were not warmly greeted. The survey also found that passengers who use in-flight wi-fi are 39 points happier than those who do not use it.

The issue of in-flight satisfaction is such an important one that one company hopes to turn a profit from of it. Routehappy, launched in April 2013, allows passengers to search for flights according to specific “Happiness Factors”: seat comfort (pitch and width), seat layout, quality of plane (new, refurbished etc), flight speed (duration of flight, layovers, stops), availability of wi-fi and entertainment options. Similar to the metasearch site Hipmunk, which sorts flights based on “Agony”, Routehappy is catering to travellers who value experience over ticket price.

According to an informal BBC Travel Facebook poll, our readers agree that comfort is a top happiness factor. Flyers prefer wider seats with plenty of legroom; more options for reclining or adjusting headrests; and layouts that minimise the number of middle seats and seats per row. In an era of shrinking in-flight freebies, BBC Travel’s poll revealed that travellers still appreciate complimentary extras like snacks and first checked bag free.

What makes you a happy passenger? Let us know on our Facebook poll.

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