Most would reject travel upgrades to stay close to a friend or romantic partner, study finds

Air travel can be tricky. It’s often riddled with delays and even baggage woes.

But upgrades can be a surprisingly bright spot. However, a study published by the Society for Consumer Psychology finds that most travelers would refuse better comfort if it means they’ll be separated from a traveling partner, close friend or romantic partner.

In one of several studies with different scenarios, researchers found a good number of people would forgo traveling in first class rather than abandoning their loved one in coach.

“They exhibit a pretty strong preference to be physically close to this person who they feel emotionally close to,” said Rebecca Ratner, one of three co-authors of the study.

She said they got similar results with chocolate — folks would rather enjoy one piece with company, than two pieces alone.

“It’s sort of baffling to us in a way,” Ratner said.

That’s because if people are trying to fill life with enjoyable experiences, “it means we may sacrifice enjoyment, particularly when with our romantic partner or particularly when we’re with our close friends.”

They found similar results using scenarios like the choice between far seats at a Cirque Du Soleil show versus ones with a great view. Both would get awesome new seats — just not in the same row. More than half of close friends said they would reject the better seats if attending with a close friend, but if it was an acquaintance, only 1/3 chose the less desirable seats.

But, Ratner points out, researchers learned it’s not always about the most enjoyable experience one would receive with better travel comforts or really great show seats. It’s more about another of life’s enjoyments: trying to “build a relationship or build positive memories about something they did with this person.”

Researchers also tested describing a train trip as a means to get from point A to point B with nothing much interesting happening during the trip. More of those upgrades were accepted by participants who viewed that travel scenario as purely functional and weren’t so concerned about building memories with their friend or loved one.

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