In its 2018 Air Travelers in America Survey, Airlines for America has found that more Americans are traveling by air than ever before. In 2017, 48 percent of Americans flew on an airline. Of the more than 5,000 respondents to the online Ipsos Public Affairs poll, 88 percent had participated in commercial air travel in their lifetime. For comparison, in 1977, the first year shown in A4A’s data, only 25 percent of respondents had taken a commercial flight that year, and 63 percent had flown in their lifetime.
Of those polled, every age group and household income level reported taking more trips on average in 2017 than in 2016. The only group that did not take more trips was income earners above $150,000, whose travel habits remained largely the same. The income group that showed the biggest increase was the $75,000 to $99,999 per household range. Those earners took an average of 5.1 trips in 2017, up from 3.4 in 2016.
The poll also shows a steady increase in trips taken for personal reasons, which account for 71 percent of trips taken by 2017 flyers. According to A4A, this increase, which has continued since 2015, reflects an improving economy and airfare options that are increasingly affordable to the average American family. Surveyed flyers took on average 5.3 flights in 2017, with 2.6 of those being for leisure purposes.
“The people who are traveling increasingly look like all Americans,” says Chris Jackson, vice president of Ipsos Public Affairs. “Air travel is increasingly something that is democratized. It’s regularly available to people, and we see that in the profile of the people traveling.”
Air Travel Customer Satisfaction
Overall, customer satisfaction is down slightly from 2016 to an overall satisfaction score of 81 percent. The greatest change in this satisfaction shift is at the top. In 2016, 43 percent of respondents reported being “very satisfied” with their overall travel experience, but in 2017 that number dropped to 37 percent. Just 1 percent reported being “very dissatisfied” in 2017; 13 percent were “neutral,” and 4 percent were “somewhat dissatisfied.”
Of particular note is customer satisfaction with ongoing advancements in the check-in process, such as airport kiosks and airline investments in app and website development. Respondents rated the check-in process an average of 4.07 out of 5. Check-ins were the area of highest customer satisfaction, followed by the ticket-purchasing process, the boarding process, reliability of flight schedules, security and baggage claims.
“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,” says John Heimlich, vice president and chief economist at A4A. “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.”