CAIRN-INT.INFO : International Edition

While spatial mobility is a key factor in the shaping of social stratification several scholars have pointed to a dramatic increase in mobility, even to a massification of travel at the societal level. Air travel, a select mode of transport, interestingly figures among the means of physical mobility that have witnessed particularly strong massification. The largely unanimous discourse on the democratization of air transport calls for questioning the ways this means of transport spreads across social classes and yet remains more accessible to some to than others. Our aim is therefore to unveil what kind of democratization air transport is undergoing. France’s 1974, 1981, 1993 and 2008 national surveys on transport and travel (Enquêtes nationales transport) allow us to analyse the odds of utilizing air transport when travelling long distances and the social composition of air travellers in the light of the passengers’ sociodemographic characteristics, travel conditions and motivations. This article shows that air travel is currently going through a quantitative democratization (an equal increase of the chances to utilize air transport for every category) along with a polarization among air travellers (a multiplication of air travels rather than a multiplication of air travellers).

  • Air transport
  • cultural capital
  • social classes
  • massification
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