Air Travelers Increasingly Dislike Having To Fly, Study Finds

Delays, pilot shortages, and security issues may be the horsemen of the airline industry's apocalyptic struggle to stay viable in recent years. Indeed, while the total number of passengers between 2002 and 2007 increased 20% to almost 665 million passengers, per Chicago-based market research firm Mintel, growth has leveled off since 2005 because consumers don't like to fly.

In its November survey, the firm says about 7 of 10 adult respondents have taken a domestic trip of any type of over 100 miles in the last year, but only a quarter of adult respondents took that trip by commercial flight. That number increases dramatically with income, with over half of respondents from households earning $150,000 or more taking a round-trip flight in the past year.

The firm says respondents with household incomes over $150,000 are almost twice as likely to take a plane trip, and also take more trips per year. If there's good news in the fact that the number of households with incomes above $100,000 has increased nearly 40% between 1999 and 2004, per Mintel, those households are less likely to enjoy the experience of flight.



Mintel finds that 39% of respondents from the highest-income households--those making $100,000 or more--are most likely to agree that air travel is not fun. Because high-income households are most likely to fly, it should be a grave concern for the airlines that their most coveted customer group is not particularly fond of air travel or appreciative of the value it provides.

Overall, 30% of air travelers say that "air travel is not at all fun ..." and nearly three-quarters do not regard it as "a great value."

One in five adults took a foreign trip by plane in the past three years, again with household income determining frequency: per Mintel, only 10% of respondents from households with $25,000 winged it overseas, versus 39% of respondents from households earning $150,000 or more. About three-quarters of Americans who travel abroad favor U.S. carriers like American, Delta, United and Continental.

Each of the major airlines, with the exception of AirTran, saw its mishandled baggage complaints rise substantially in 2007 compared to 2006, per Mintel. JetBlue's complaints jumped 51.3% in the first half of 2007 compared to 2006; still, the carrier has the third-fewest complaints overall. US Airways continues to be the worst-performing airline--with 8.95 complaints per 1,000 passengers.

Continental, Northwest, Delta, United and US Airways had the most consumer complaints of the leading airlines.

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