Posted on: March 28, 2011
Study shows increase in negative sentiments toward airlines
Less than half of U.S. air travelers feel positive about their airline experiences, while a quarter of U.S. fliers feel negative, according to a new report from PhoCusWright.
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The report, "Heat from the Middle Seat: The U.S. Consumer Perspective in Air Travel," finds that consumers feel worse about their airline experiences now versus a few years ago, coinciding with the same period that airlines have added baggage fees and other charges.
PhoCusWright found that 38% percent of leisure-only U.S. travelers feel slightly or substantially worse about their airline experiences compared to a few years ago, while just 13% feel slightly or substantially better. Among business travelers, 40% feel their experiences have gotten worse.
"Fliers are essentially giving airlines a grade of C+, which is barely above satisfactory," said Carroll Rheem, PhoCusWright director of research. "But even more concerning for airlines is that their most valuable customers — business travelers and those with higher annual household incomes — are even less happy than the average."
The report found that affluent travelers (those with an annual household income of $100,000 or more) are nearly twice as likely as less affluent travelers (those with annual household incomes of $50,000) to have slightly or very negative sentiments.
In addition, both business travelers and affluent travelers are less likely to have positive sentiments toward their flying experiences and more likely to have negative sentiments, the report found.
PhoCusWright said that in addition to baggage fees, airlines are aiming to increase sales of optional services like preferred seating and priority boarding.
Those fees represent "a tremendous opportunity for airlines," PhoCusWright said, but one that could be difficult to realize with the decline in traveler satisfaction.
"Consumers are inherently reluctant to buy more services from companies they feel are taking advantage of them — and unfortunately, many feel that way about airlines today," Rheem said.
"Airlines have therefore put a ceiling of their own creation on the potential success of optional services. If they focus on repairing relationships with their passengers, airlines have the ability to break that ceiling. Whether or not they have the inclination remains to be seen."