A new consumer survey finds that Americans love the air travel experience – they even love all those fees!
Really? Well, you need to consider the source: The survey was sponsored by Airlines for America (A4A), the airline industry’s trade organization. Hey — we just report; you decide. (Take our TravelSkills poll below)
A4A said its online survey of more than 3,000 consumers found that fully 80 percent of them “are satisfied or very satisfied with air travel.” Only six percent were somewhat dissatisfied or very dissatisfied, A4A said. That seems pretty low based on the mountain of complaints we get at TravelSkills, but we are probably lightning rods when it comes to complaints.
When queried about the old air fare system where most things were included in the price vs. the new “a la carte pricing” system where most things carry an extra fee, “two-thirds of travelers said they prefer to pay only for the items and services they want ‘so my ticket ends up being less expensive.’” Was that how they phrased the survey question? If so, it just goes to show how easily a pollster can get the results he or she wants.
It’s important to note that this was not a survey of business travelers but a broad cross-section of the public, and A4A said that only 45 percent of U.S. adults traveled by air in the past year (although 81 percent had done so sometime in their lives). The survey group covered all the demographic bases, and 86 percent of them said that price is the biggest single factor in their decision to fly instead of using another form of transportation or staying home.
By contrast, the majority (57 percent) of “road warriors” in the survey (i.e., those who fly 12 or more times a year) said their biggest concerns are comfort and inflight options such as seat outlets, wi-fi and entertainment, in addition to logistics – airline schedules and routes.
The increasing affordability of air travel has indeed led to a sort of democratization of the skies, the survey found: Whereas business trips accounted for 47 percent of all air travel 20 years ago, A4A said, that number has now dropped to 31 percent. Everyone else is flying for personal or leisure purposes.
Apparently the survey didn’t give respondents a chance to evaluate the things they might not like about the air travel experience. It provided no data about respondents’ opinions on seat size, service quality, airport lines and so on. Nor did it address the inevitable results of cramming a cross-section of society into cramped seats in a metal tube for a few hours: Google the term “air rage” and you’ll get more than 3.4 million search results. Or just bring up the topic at your next cocktail party and you’ll stir up plenty of prattle!
Consumer complaints to the Transportation Department about air travel jumped 34 percent last year, but FAA reauthorization legislation currently in the Senate tacked on only a few modest provisions to make life easier for travelers, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. More significant reforms, like defining acceptable seat dimensions and requiring airlines to justify all those fees, were rejected.
Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) commented: “I know there are some who think we should go further and re-regulate the airline industry, but we know deregulation has helped make air travel more accessible and more affordable for families and business travelers.” He sounded very much like an A4A press release.
Let’s take a TravelSkills poll and see how our view of the airline experience stacks up against the A4A findings. How would you rate your satisfaction with airlines?
Be sure to click on the clear or grayed out “Vote” button
NOTE: Be sure to click here to see all recent TravelSkills posts about: United’s newest, longest flight + Tipping Uber drivers + Qantas 747 Trip Report + Confusion over PreCheck policies + No-fee earlier flights