Over half of air passengers (52%) would pay a bit extra if this could ensure that they would avoid flight delays or cancellations and that their overall experience at the airport would improve. This was established in a survey carried out by ResearchNow on behalf of the US Travel Association.
For about 90% of passengers, air travel in the past 12 months has either been accompanied by more complications or the experience has basically remained the same, the survey established. If the experience improved it might result in more bookings: 60% of the sample said that they would fly 2.6 more times a year on average if air travel became more efficient. For 91% of respondents, overall flying costs are a "very important" or "somewhat important" consideration when ticket purchasing decisions are made.
Looking at delays and cancellations, 39% of travellers said that those were their main concern when taking a trip by air, while the fees charged for checked luggage or seat assignments were the biggest concern for 26% of travellers.
Just 11% were most concerned about safety, which indicates that people are increasingly confident when flying, while 8% cited security screening as their main concern. Only 6% had no particular concerns when flying.
An economic analysis carried out by ResearchNow has determined that air travel issues are having a broader economic impact. In the US, for instance, travellers' frustration resulted in 38 million avoided domestic flights last year. Even though travelling by air is increasing steadily after the economic downturn, such a massive number amounts to a loss representing 8% of the current demand for flights. When this number is converted into money, spending losses come in at $9.5 billion on airfares, $5.8 billion on hotel bookings, $5.7 billion on recreation, $3.4 billion on food services and $2.8 billion on car rentals. Meanwhile, delays and cancellations cost air travellers $8.5 billion in lost time, missed connections and missed travel activity. All these represent a combined $35.7 billion in losses for the US economy.
A number of measures should be taken in order to address the issues highlighted by the participants in the poll and reduce the volume of cash losses, according to Roger Dow, president and chief executive of the US Travel Association. With regard to delays and cancellations, Dow proposes targeted federal investments in the infrastructure of airports and acceleration of the adoption of NextGen, the new national airspace system. In addition, increases in fees should be structured in such a way that 100% of the funds collected benefit passengers and the travel infrastructure.
Dow also noted that transparency should be improved to allow travellers to easily compare available flight options and plan their budget for a trip. Finally, competition should be increased by expanding airports and adding more flights.