Around 51 per cent of those questioned by British online travel agent sunshine.co.uk said they were less likely to trust a female pilot, while just 14 per cent said they would feel safer with a woman at the control of an aircraft. A quarter said the sex of their pilot did not matter. Nine per cent said they were "unsure".
Of those who said they would rather have a male pilot, 32 per cent said they believed "male pilots are more skilled", while 28 per cent questioned the ability of female pilots to handle pressure.
The lack of existing female pilots meant a fear of the unknown was also cited by one in ten of those questioned. According to Cockpit Confidential, a book about air travel by Patrick Smith, a US pilot, just five per cent of cockpit crew are female – up from three per cent in the mid-Nineties.
"It’s obvious to anybody who travels that the vast majority of pilots are men, and I’m unsure what discourages women from joining them in greater number" says Smith.
"Part of it may be the military culture that, for many decades, dominated pilot ranks."
Of those who said they’d prefer to see a woman at the helm, 44 per cent claimed men to be "too hot-headed in a crisis", while a quarter said men might be "too easily distracted".
"To see that more than half would be less likely to trust a female pilot was absolutely astounding," said Chris Clarkson, managing director of Sunshine.co.uk. "Clearly, many Britons have stereotypes that they need to get rid of."
"If pilots become fully qualified and are given their licence, they are perfectly capable of flying a plane and getting you to your destination safely, regardless of whether they are male or female," he added.
Nearly 2,400 people were questioned in the survey – all had taken a flight in the last year.
The Telegraph, London