by Michael J. Shapiro | June 17, 2014
The hassles of air travel caused travelers to avoid taking 38 million trips in 2013, according to a survey of more than 1,000 U.S. business and leisure travelers. Those avoided trips are equivalent to 8 percent of total air travel demand; based on an analysis by U.S. Travel, that led to $35.7 billion in lost revenue, in terms of airfare, hotel spend, recreation, food services and car rentals. The biggest factor in deterring the travel was the concern about delays and cancellations, according to the survey, which was conducted this past February by independent firm ResearchNow on behalf of U.S. Travel. That was the primary concern of 39 percent of respondents, while 26 percent of travelers named airline-imposed fees as their top worry. With respect to the top concern, said U.S. Travel CEO Roger Dow, "Ultimately these problems boil down to the state of our air travel infrastructure, and the need to really take a hard look at our national priorities and how we can invest in our air-travel system." U.S. Travel proposed a number of key fixes to address traveler concerns:
• For delays and cancellations, make targeted federal investments in airport infrastructure and accelerate deployment of the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen), the FAA's public works project to improve airport infrastructure. Any associated fee increases must be rigidly structured so that 100 percent of the funds raised benefit travelers and travel infrastructure, rather than being general revenue raisers Congress might appropriate for unrelated purposes.
• For airline fees, improve transparency to make it easier for travelers to compare different flight options and to budget for trips.
• For overall cost, expand airports to add more flight options and improve competition.