US Travel Association: Air travel hassles have worsened during the last five years

There’s no arguing the customer experience has risen to unprecedented importance in the airline business. But efforts by the US air travel industry to engender more favourable customer sentiment have done little to erode the negativity associated with flying, according to new research by the US Travel Association.

The Association tapped Morning Consult to survey 2,201 adults from 10-Oct-2017 to 12-Oct-2017, and the overall findings show “Americans avoided 32 million air trips last year, costing the US economy more than USD24 billion in spending”.

The biggest beefs among those surveyed are not surprising. Roughly 60% of the respondents highlighted airline fees, fight changes and seat assignments as aspects of the air travel journey that are worse now than five years ago.

However, product unbundling remains a mainstay of airline profitability that has stabilised and grown during that time. Data from US trade group Airlines For America show US airlines posted profits of USD61 billion from 2010 to 2016, but their net margin was still just 5.5%. The trade group calculates in 2016 its members spent roughly USD17.5 billion to enhance their products, or roughly USD20 per passenger.

Unfortunately, those efforts appear to have done little to move the needle toward positive passenger perception. By a greater than 5-1 margin, the US Travel Association survey participants stated travel has become more of a hassle during the last five years.

There is some upside to the travel association’s findings. “Two in five frequent business and leisure travellers would take at least three more trips per year if airport hassles could be reduced or eliminated,” it stated.

Roughly 60% of survey participants believe the US Congress should forge policies to modernise airport and air traffic control infrastructure.

The association believes its survey findings send a clear message to legislators. “Congress can – and should – prioritise fixing our airport infrastructure. They should do it for the sake of the 15.3 million Americans whose jobs are supported by travel.”

CHART – In the US Travel Association (USTA) survey 51% of respondents  said air travel has become more of a hassle during the past five yearsSource: US Travel Association