Monday, June 16, 2008

Americans not totally pissed with air travel just yet.

I have been vocal about expressing my dissatisfaction with air travel. I even went so far as to say that a few airlines have to go broke and shut down for good before anything resembling improvement in air travel actually happens. So, to go along with my musings here is a study from the Travel Industry Association (the nice folks who lobby for the travel industry) stating that "Air Travelers Avoided 41 Million Trips in Past Year - U.S. Economy Takes $26.5 Billion Hit" (PDF documents. Executive summary here. Key findings with more detail over here). The thing that strikes me about the study is that there is such an economic impact, and yet the airlines continue to operate like cattle cars in the sky. Heck, I am willing to bet that in some cattle ranches the cows get much better treatment than airline passengers. Thus my notion that Americans are just not pissed off enough. After all, they keep flying. Let us look at this study a bit. Who knows how much it cost to do the study, but here you get it for free with my snark.

  • First of all, it seems that for all the hysteria, people are just not pissed off just yet. "Looking at all Americans who have taken at least one air trip in the past 12 months, two-thirds (66%) are satisfied with 'the entire air travel system of airports and airlines including security, boarding, the in-flight experience, and baggage' and one-third is dissatisfied" (from the findings document). Only one third are dissatisfied? Well, when we get to two thirds or more, call me.
  • Of course, it is the frequent travelers who are most vocal. "Again, the more often someone travels by air, the more likely they are to find fault with the air travel system, and for travelers who fly more than three times per year, the negative outweighs the positive, as 'frustrating' tops the list of descriptors." What I wonder is if any of these studies would take into account people who pretty much gave up on air travel. In other words, not the customers they could lose, but the ones they already lost that they are making no effort to get back.
  • And by the way, it is the air travel. Other elements of the travel process such as renting a car or getting the hotel are usually fine. "Compared with other parts of the travel experience including renting cars, staying at a motel, hotel, or resort, and eating meals away from home, the air travel experience is the least pleasant part of taking a trip. A 56% majority of travelers say that getting through the airports and flying to and from their destination is a bad part (40%) or the worst part of travel (16%)."
  • The economic impact: "Travel hassles, long lines, flight delays, and cancellations caused 41 million trips not to be taken last year, including 29 million leisure trips and 12 million business trips. This is a total cost to the travel industry of $26.5 billion: $9.4 billion to airlines, $5.6 billion to hotels, $3.1 billion to restaurants and $4.2 billion in federal, state and local tax revenue." I don't think it has had enough of an impact yet. If it had a larger impact, rest assured that the lobbyists for restaurants, hotels, chambers of commerce, tourism organizations, and so on would be yelling at Congress to finally do something to demand the airlines get their act together. Money usually speaks loudly, but it seems it is not talking loudly enough yet. I say give it some time, lose a few billion more dollars in restaurants, hotels, amusement parks, travel destinations, and so on, and maybe then something will finally happen.
  • Now some of you may think I am being too pessimistic. Well, according to the study, I would not be alone in my pessimism: "Despite recognizing that the air travel system needs significant improvements, travelers are not confident that the airlines, airports, and the federal government will make the needed changes in the next few years."
So, I am thinking things have not gotten bad enough yet. They have to get worse before something serious happens in terms of reforming air travel. The question is how long before people say enough is enough.

A hat tip to Docuticker.


Rob Mark said...

Don't underestimate American's tolerance for things ugly, like air travel. So many people today just assume they can do nothing about it anyway.

We have become very crow-like ... focusing on whatever the most sparkling situation is in sight.

Two years ago, everyone was outraged at the conflict in Iraq. Now we have something else to focus on ... our economy.

Who knows what's coming next.

Angel, librarian and educator said...

To be honest, it can be kind of frightening that people have such tolerance. However, at times, it does not cease to amaze me how much people are willing to put up with, which just makes my faith in people go down.

Who knows what is next indeed. Best, and keep on blogging.