August 01, 2002
Meetings & Conventions: Planner's Portfolio August 2002 Current Issue
August 2002 On TravelPLANNER'S PORTFOLIO:

On Travel

By Loren G. Edelstein


Most travelers are getting to the airport too early&Why we’re so tired after a vacation

Waiting at the gate. Air travelers generally are moving smoothly through the nation’s airports, according to a study conducted in late June by the online booking site Travelocity. Nearly 82 percent of travelers still get to the airport more than an hour before departure, but 59 percent find they usually need just 30 minutes or less to get from curb to gate.

Among other findings:
More than 61 percent of travelers say it generally takes less than 15 minutes to go through security checkpoints. About one-third find the process takes 15 to 30 minutes.

Many travelers seem unaware of the fastest ways to get through the airport. More than half who do not check luggage still wait at the check-in counter when they likely could go straight to the gate. Worries about security at U.S. airports have leveled off, with about 78 percent of respondents “somewhat” or “not at all” concerned.

Eight out of 10 respondents at least somewhat agree that U.S. airport security has improved and that most security measures in place are reasonable. However, about 72 percent say security isn’t entirely consistent from airport to airport.

Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C., ranks best in terms of short waits. Seventy-three percent of travelers who flew through Reagan National spent less than 30 minutes to get to their departure gate. Nearly as speedy: Austin, Texas; Orange County, Calif.; Providence, R.I.; Sacramento, Calif.; and San Jose, Calif.

The worst-ranking airport is Denver International, where 93 percent find it takes more than an hour to make it to the gate. Expect similar waits in Baltimore; Oakland, Calif.; Boston; Nashville; and Newark, N.J.

Less angst at baggage claim. Incidents of mishandled baggage on domestic flights of the 10 largest U.S. airlines dropped to their lowest level in at least 14 years, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. In May, the airlines reported 3.32 mishandled bags per 1,000 passengers, the lowest rate since the DOT began tracking the number in September 1987.

Some speculate the change is related to the new requirement, as of Jan. 18, that airlines match every bag to a boarded passenger.

The news might not provide much comfort for flyers on American Eagle, however, which posted the worst rate for May, at 8.54 mishandled bags per 1,000 passengers.

Wiped out from vacation? You’re in good company. A survey by the Gallup Organization found that more than half (54 percent) of Americans return home from vacations tired. Of those, one in five claim they are either “very tired” or “exhausted.”

The survey of 1,000 travelers, commissioned by Sanofi-Synthelabo, a global health-care company based in Paris, pointed to poor planning, later bedtimes and unfamiliar or uncomfortable accommodations as some of the reasons we come home pooped.

Even before leaving, travelers set themselves up for fatigue, the survey found.

Most respondents (56 percent) pack the night before or the day of the trip. In the scramble to get ready, nearly one-third go to bed at least two hours later than normal.

On the morning of the trip, 54 percent wake up earlier than usual.

Of respondents with jobs, 36 percent find they need to work harder or put in longer hours before going on vacation. Twenty-six percent lose sleep because of this increased job pressure.

Sleep habits during vacation exacerbate the weariness.

Most travelers stay up later than normal while away. In fact, 22 percent of those taking trips of 10 to 14 days go to bed later nearly every night.

The type of trip planned is also a key factor. Those who take a cruise generally return home “well rested” (30 percent), while respondents who visit family for vacation are most likely to say they’re “exhausted” (12 percent).

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