TIA Survey: 41 Million Flights Avoided by Frustrated Air Travelers

Travelers avoided taking 41 million trips last year—including 12 million business trips—because of their frustration with air travel, according to a new study by the Travel Industry Association. The upshot is a $26.5 billion hit to the economy that cost airlines $9.4 billion, hotels $5.6 billion, and restaurants $3.1 billion.

The survey, conducted for TIA by Peter D. Hart Research Associates and The Winston Group, revealed that 28 percent of Americans avoided at least one air trip last year. Overall, that equals about 112,000 trips per day. Approximately 29 million were leisure trips, while 12 million were business trips.

The research also found that 62 percent believe that the air-travel system is deteriorating. Further, 48 percent of frequent air travelers (5 or more trips per year) are "dissatisfied" while 51 percent feel their time is not respected in the air-travel process. Nearly 60 percent express no confidence that the air-travel system will be improved in the near future. The survey of 1,003 air travelers was conducted between May 6 and May 13, 2008.

"Many travelers believe their time is not respected, and it is leading them to avoid a significant number of trips," said Allan Rivlin, a partner at Peter D. Hart, in a news release. Inefficient security screening and flight cancellations and delays are air travelers' top frustrations.

"The air-travel crisis has hit a tipping point," stated Roger Dow, president and CEO at TIA, in a press release. To discuss the next steps, TIA, along with the International Association of Exhibitions and Events, will host an emergency summit of travel leaders on June 17 in Washington D.C. TIA has also called on the major presidential candidates to commit to addressing the issue.

In response to the survey, the Air Transport Association president and CEO James May stated: "Welcome to the picnic. The TIA survey reveals what the ATA has been saying for years, that we have an aging air traffic control system that is in desperate need of replacement." ATA, which represents the airline industry, said in a press statement that it appreciates TIA's involvement and looks forward to working on solutions together. Further, the organization asked TIA to support its efforts to push for changes with federal authorities. Among its initiatives are new air traffic control technology, accelerated airspace redesign in the New York region to relieve pressure that delays there have put on the rest of the system, and urging Congress to fight "sky-high" oil prices, while not imposing "unfair" environmental fees on airlines.