With 2017 extending the safest period in aviation history, Airlines for America (A4A), the industry trade organization for the leading U.S. airlines, found in its annual commissioned survey that Americans are continuing to take to the skies in record numbers. In 2017, 48 percent of Americans flew on an airline and 88 percent had taken a commercial flight in their lifetime, according to the Air Travelers in America report, conducted by Ipsos Public Affairs. Comparatively, in 1977, just 25 percent of Americans had taken a flight that year and only 63 percent had flown in their lifetime.
Also on the rise: annual trips by age group and household income. Every age group and household income level, except for those who earned over $150,000, reported taking more trips in 2017 than in 2016. The biggest leap came from those in households earning $75,000-$99,999, who took an average of 5.1 trips in 2017—up from 3.4 in 2016.
Among 2017 flyers, 71 percent of all trips were taken for personal reasons, up from 2016 and 2015, reflecting both an improving economy and the increasing availability of affordable, accessible airfare options for the average American and their family. According to the survey, 2017 flyers took an average of 5.3 flights in 2017, including 2.6 for personal leisure purposes.
Down slightly from 2016, 81 percent of travelers reported being satisfied with their overall air travel experience and for the third consecutive year, just 1 percent reported being “very dissatisfied.” Of the remainder, 13 percent were “neutral,” and 4 percent were “somewhat dissatisfied.” Passengers noted particular satisfaction with ongoing advancements in the check-in process, with an average rating of 4.07 out of a possible 5, thanks to airline investments in app and website development and airport kiosks.
The online survey of more than 5,000 American adults, conducted in January 2018 by Ipsos Public Affairs, explored who was traveling by air, why, where and how often. In addition to rating various aspects of their 2017 experience, business and personal flyers alike were asked to indicate their participation in frequent flyer and Trusted Traveler programs as well as their methods and criteria for shopping for and booking flights, getting to the airport, checking in and length of stay at destination.
“Airlines continue to adapt to a highly price-sensitive American public by ensuring that passengers of all income levels can choose the services and price points that meet their individual needs, making air travel affordable and accessible to everyone,” said A4A Vice President and Chief Economist John Heimlich. “The strides airlines are making to improve the flight experience—from varying fares that can fit any budget, in-flight entertainment options, gourmet food offerings and advancements in technology, both on the ground and in the air— are resonating with customers and leading to more Americans traveling more often by air.”
“The democratization of U.S. air travel is continuing, according to the latest data we collected for Airlines for America,” said Chris Jackson, Vice President of Ipsos Public Affairs. “In this year’s survey we found that almost half, 48 percent, of Americans flew in 2017, and the large majority of those trips, 71 percent, were for personal reasons. Compared to air travel of a generation ago that was heavily focused on those traveling for business, this shows that Americans view air travel as widely available and accessible and a principal form of intercity and international transportation.”
Travelers continued to be satisfied with their flight experience in 2017
Flying continues to be an extremely accessible and affordable mode of transportation, with the average American adult taking 2.5 airline trips in 2017. When asked about their flights throughout 2017, 85 percent said all or most of their flights were satisfactory. Those enrolled in a Trusted Traveler Program (TSA Pre✓® or Global Entry) reported 86 percent satisfaction when thinking about their overall experience with air travel, including 49 percent who were “very satisfied.”
Passengers were most satisfied with the process of checking in for their flights, followed by shopping and purchasing a ticket, the boarding process, reliability of on-time departures and arrivals, getting through security and awaiting checked baggage upon arrival.
Affordability of airfare is most important factor to leisure travelers
When selecting which airline to fly, leisure travelers value affordability above everything else, followed by flight schedules, reliability of on-time departure and arrival, airline seat comfort, customer service, airline frequent flier programs, quality of inflight amenities, and environmental responsibility. Business travelers also value affordability, but not as much as their preferred airline frequent flyer program and flight schedules. In 2017, 38 percent of passengers reported flying at least once from an airport not closest to their home or office. Of those choosing an airport other than the one closest to their home or office, 33 percent were willing to travel up to an hour for the best price; 12 percent were willing to travel up to 2 hours.
It’s a great time to fly, as evidenced by the highly competitive state of the industry, allowing travelers to select fares and à la carte amenities that fit their needs. 76 percent of people surveyed find the airline industry to be as or more competitive than it was five years ago.
About the survey
The Air Travelers in America survey was conducted Jan. 8 -17, 2018 as an online survey of 5,046 members of the American general public, age 18+ by Ipsos Public Affairs on behalf of Airlines for America.
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