By land, sea and (especially) by air
For most people travel is about getting to their destination. That’s when the fun begins.
Yes there are road trips, and they are wonderful. Yes there is train travel, and it is romantic and historical. And, of course, there are cruises, and there is something therapeutic about vast, open expanses of water.
But for hundreds of millions of people every year the transportation of choice — and often the only practical mode of transportation — is an airliner. The jet age has brought us transcontinental travel in a single day. It has also compiled an astounding safety record. Still, the airline industry is not without its frustrations for travelers. That is a situation not lost on the U.S. Travel Association, (nor on The Rose Hotel, which is why we try to make the check-in experience at our front desk as pleasing and relaxing as possible).
The Travel Association did some airline research and found some very positive trends as well as some concerns. To the good, the number of people traveling by air increased for the fifth consecutive year, and airlines posted record profits of $12.7 billion during 2013. To the bad, 89 percent of air travelers surveyed say the air travel process had become more of a hassle, and fees charged by most airlines for checked baggage is irksome. The overall cost of flying, driven higher in part by stubbornly high fuel prices, was also a source of irritation, as was flight delays and cancellations — though, in fairness to the airlines, that was often the result of inclement or even violent weather, which even Southwest Airlines has not yet figured out how to control.
Here’s the good news: Travelers said they would fly more often if the air travel system was improved and made more efficient, which the airlines are acutely aware of and are taking measures to remedy. Like any business, air carriers are always looking to improve their brand image and boost profits. For its part, the U.S. Travel Association is proposing a comprehensive aviation agenda that includes policies aimed at modernizing airports and alleviating travel hassles. That would increase travel demand and benefit all industry stakeholders, the organization says. Specifically, it is proposing:
- Reducing flight delays and cancellations by making targeted investments in airport infrastructure and accelerating deployment of the Federal Aviation Administration’s Next Generation Air Transportation System, or NextGen.
- Promoting greater transparency in ticket pricing and ancillary fee disclosure.
- Expanding airport capacity to improve airline competition and encourage new air service.
Consider that aviation hassles caused Americans to avoid more than 38 million air trips during a 12-month period (from February 2013 through February 2014), according to the U.S. Travel Association. This cost the U.S. economy $27.2 billion in travel spending, including the loss of $9.5 billion in airfares, $5.8 billion in hotels, $3.4 billion in restaurant and food services, $2.8 billion in other transportation such as taxis, car rentals, and $5.7 billion spending on other travel goods and services such as amusement and recreation activities.
So there is much to be gained by improving air travel performance and passenger experience. In the final analysis, people who are traveling by air want to get to their destinations fast. For that reason, we can expect air travel to continue gaining altitude, though it will do so more quickly with some aggressive action by the
Federal Aviation Administration and the airlines it regulates.