Agents and Travelers Concerned with Regional Airlines

A majority of business travelers are concerned over perceived safety differences between regional airlines and major network carriers according to a new survey by the Business Travel Coalition (BTC).

The survey of corporate travel managers and travel management company executives in the U.S. and abroad, “Perceptions About U.S. Regional Airline Outsourcing” sheds light on a variety of safety, government oversight and marketing issues associated with the U.S. regional airline model, the BTC said.

The survey was released as the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) launched a symposium on airline code-sharing arrangements and their role in aviation safety. NTSB asked BTC to provide the perspectives and insights of the consumer and corporate travel departments.

To address these concerns a majority of corporations allow travelers to choose an alternative travel option, even if it’s a more expensive one, the BTC said. Indeed, a majority of corporations indicate that they would be willing to pay much higher airfares in return for higher safety standards at the regional airlines.

The BTC survey reports that most business travelers are confused about what carrier will be operating their flights while a majority of corporate travel managers indicated that they view the painting of regional airplanes, operated by one company but with the logo of its code share major airline partner, as amounting to deceptive marketing.

A majority of travel managers also say travel management companies and online travel agencies have insufficient information at the point of sale for notifying travelers of code sharing arrangements. Two hundred and twelve (212) corporate travel managers, travel agency executives and other professionals from the ranks of airlines, technology firms and consultancies participated.

“The confidence of business travelers and travel industry professionals with respect to them regional airline industry is not high either as it relates to safety standards or marketing practices. This does not bode well for the sustainability of the industry or its ability to avoid
increased government intervention,” BTC said.

“The travel professionals who participated in this BTC survey likewise do not express a level of confidence and knowledge, that would be highly desirable, about the effectiveness of FAA’s oversight of this industry segment. Importantly, a vast majority feels that if consumers and travel professionals were more informed about the regional airline business model, they would be in a position to better drive marketplace changes”

Highlights of the survey include:

66.6 percent of corporate travel managers indicated that business travelers whom they support voice concerns over perceived safety differences between U.S. regional and U.S. major airline code share partners.

65.5 percent of travel managers said that this safety concern has been consistent over time.

80.5 percent of travelers whom these managers support avoid turboprop aircraft. According to travel managers, the primary determining factors behind their travelers avoiding turboprop aircraft are a) perceived lower overall safety standards versus major airlines (75.8 percent); b) less comfortable cabin configurations (72.7 percent); and c) flying in harsher, lower altitudes, especially in winter months (48.5 percent).

62.5 percent of travel managers indicated that their companies’ travel policies allow travelers to book out of policy (e.g., lowest logical airfare) if they are uncomfortable with flying on regional airlines.

76.2 percent of managers felt that a more informed public and managed travel community (about the regional airline model) could drive the regional airline industry's business model closer to that of the major airlines.

60 percent said that their companies would support paying much higher airfares in return for higher safety standards.

61.9 percent of travel managers have concerns about liability and accountability when problems arise with regional airlines after travelers purchase tickets through a major airline but fly on one of its regional outsourcing partners

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