Ways to Improve the Air Travel Experience, According to U.S. Travel

A record-breaking summer travel season highlighted the detrimental effect of government inefficiencies and hassles across the air travel system, as made evident in a new U.S. Travel Association survey from Ipsos. Due to an increase in poor air travel experiences, travelers going forward are likely to take an average of two fewer trips per year at a projected total cost of $71 billion to the U.S. economy. The impact of traveler frustrations equates to 27 million avoided trips.

In all, about one quarter of all air travelers (24 percent) rated their overall air travel experience as fair or poor, meaning they experienced several to numerous hassles or inconveniences. Less than one in five (16 percent) rated their overall experience as excellent and entirely hassle-free.

Even worse: Half of air travelers agree they would travel more in the next six months if the experience were not as much of a hassle. About three in 10 air travelers (29 percent) are less likely to book air travel over the next year due to the hassles involved with the overall air travel experience, primarily citing the likelihood of flight delays and cancelations making the trip too unpredictable (32 percent) and airport hassles (28 percent) as their main hassles. These travelers are the ones who, on average, will take about two trips or fewer over the next year.

Overall, this is not a great sign when considering that one of the biggest challenges facing travel advisors is helping their clients navigate airports and the air travel ecosystem. This is compounded by airfares—despite a three-month drop in price—that have also typically been at record highs in 2023. Travelers are paying more for a worse experience.

U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Geoff Freeman noted the numerous ways the federal government is failing travelers, such as outdated security screening technology, inconsistent waits at Customs and airport security checkpoints, and months (or years)-long delays for U.S. visitor visas.

Freeman cited two near-term opportunities for the U.S. to improve the air travel experience. He first called for a long-term Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization bill and confirmation of Michael G. Whitaker to serve as FAA administrator. Second, Freeman urged U.S. officials to take a more active role in learning from best practices among global competitors to improve the overall travel experience, such as steps taken by Spain and the U.K. to end the liquid ban in carry-on luggage, thanks to advanced security technology.

In addition, nearly two-thirds of recent air travelers (62 percent) are comfortable sharing their biometric data with either the government, a private corporation or both. This can be used for checking in for a flight, touchless ticketing, getting through security and boarding a plane at the gate. 

One way to improve your air travel experience now is to make sure your clients are enrolled in TSA PreCheck/Global Entry. According to the U.S. Travel survey, air travelers enrolled in either program are significantly more likely to rate their overall experience as good or excellent. Those who rated their most recent air travel experience as excellent or good are also more likely than the national average to have upcoming travel plans in the next six months. 

Source: U.S. Travel Association

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