A4A Predicts Busy Summer, Satisfied Fliers
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Trade organization Airlines for America, which represents most of the largest carriers in the United States, has predicted a record-breaking summer for air travel. Despite frustratingly long lines at security checkpoints, A4A also claims that flier satisfaction is on the rise.
Based on trends from the first quarter of 2016 and from past summer travel seasons, the organization expects this to be one of the busiest travel seasons on record. Projections suggest that 231 million fliers will take to the skies in the United States between June 1 and Aug. 30. That translates to approximately 2.51 million per day. Some days could be much busier than that as 19 of the 25 busiest travel days of the year will take place during this three-month stretch.
What is behind this surge in the number of fliers?
A4A’s Vice President and Chief Economist John Heimlich suggests that the increase in the number of fliers is simply a matter of economics. The economy has improved, so more people have more disposable income to spend on travel. This trend has been compounded by the fact that fares have fallen at the same time salaries have been rising. This, along with increased capacity from the largest airlines in the country, is the reason for the prediction of record-breaking numbers this summer.
Factors contributing to rise in summertime traffic
Despite the rise in traffic, fliers are generally more satisfied now than they have been in recent years. Heimlich pointed to recent high airline scores in surveys from J.D. Power and Associates and the American Consumer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) as evidence that airlines are getting better at giving passengers the kind of travel experiences they expect.
Not only are passengers more satisfied, their increased level of happiness could actually be playing a role in the rise of the number of fliers in the United States. Heimlich suggests that “rising air travel satisfaction — combined with a still-growing economy, improving operations and the lowest fares in at least six years, are fueling record passenger volumes, including four percent projected growth for the summer 2016.”
Overcoming TSA delays
The economist also addressed the elephant in the room: major delays at security checkpoints. A4A, along with airlines, airports and travelers, is urging the TSA to take whatever steps are required to end the checkpoint gridlock. In the short term, however, the best solution is to opt for some sort of expedited screening program like PreCheck. Heimlich championed this idea as the best short-term solution for fliers: “market research affirms that participation in expedited screening programs markedly improves the air travel experience, which will be critical as we enter the summer period.”
A4A is suggesting that during the summer, domestic fliers arrive two hours early for their flights and international travelers get to the airport three hours prior to takeoff.
Despite potential problems and pitfalls, Airlines for America is upbeat about the summer travel season and longer-term trend of rising flier satisfaction.
More by Josh Lew
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