Twice as many UK travellers prefer departing from regional airports to flying from major hubs, but greater demand for low fares may put some of those airports out of business.


A survey by market research company TNS for Travel Weekly rated the location of departure airport the second most important factor in choosing a flight – with 40% of more than 2,000 adults surveyed preferring to fly from a local airport.


However, TNS found 48% rate the lowest fare as being of prime importance, with younger adults more likely to focus on the price.


The time of the flight was vital to 27% and a direct flight important to 26%.


Given the option, 30% of respondents said they prefer to fly from a small airport – double the rate preferring a major hub.


Passenger numbers at UK regional airports have almost tripled since 1990 and exceeded 100 million for the first time in 2006.


But latest figures suggest the economic downturn is causing a reverse, with Manchester losing BMI’s long-haul services and traffic at operator BAA’s Scottish airports down more than 6% year on year in October.


Manchester Airport Group chief executive Geoff Muirhead warned last week some regional airports could go bust. He said: “Small regional airports are marginal businesses. Airports may have to close.”


The TNS survey found small airports are perceived to have quicker check-in times, shorter distances to walk, shorter queues and faster security checks. Those preferring large airports did so because of the greater choice of destinations and broader range of services.


TNS head of travel and tourism Tom Costley said: “These findings confirm the appeal of regional airports.”


The survey of 2,029 adults was conducted earlier this month.