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U.S. Fliers' Satisfaction With Ticket Prices Nosedives

U.S. Fliers' Satisfaction With Ticket Prices Nosedives

Chart: data points are described in article

Story Highlights

  • Percentage of fliers satisfied with ticket prices fell 14 pts. since 2007
  • 81% of fliers satisfied with airlines' on-time performance
  • 55% of adults say they did not fly last year, up from 48% in 2012

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- U.S. adults who have flown in the past year remain at least as satisfied as they were in 2007 with many aspects of airline travel -- except with what they pay to fly. While a slim majority (51%) still say they are satisfied with the price they pay for tickets, this satisfaction is down 14 percentage points from 2007, despite only modest increases in the average domestic airfare over that time.


These findings come from a Dec. 2-6 Gallup poll of 405 adults who have flown on an airplane in the past year. These results do not speak to customers' perceptions of any one airline company in particular, but instead offer general views on the various components of the flying experience.

The flying public remains least satisfied with the comfort of the seats on the airplanes (45%), the only aspect of the experience for which satisfaction drops to less than a majority. Analyses of decades of data for the major airline carriers seem to support the notion that over time, airline seats have gotten smaller and are stacked more closely together.

Overall, however, Americans who flew in the past year give high marks to nearly all aspects of the flying experience. Fliers continue to be most pleased with the courtesy of the staff on the ground and in the air -- 95% say they are generally satisfied with the courtesy of the check-in and gate agents, while 94% are happy with the courtesy of the flight attendants.

Ninety percent of airline travelers are satisfied with the ticket-buying process, which the industry has revolutionized in recent years. Travelers can now buy tickets in a multitude of ways from the airline or choose from a proliferation of travel websites that promise to help users find the cheapest ticket available to get to their destination. Interestingly though, even as these online sites are responsible for a larger percentage of overall bookings, travelers are less, not more, satisfied with ticket prices.

Of all aspects of the flying experience, satisfaction with airlines' on-time performance saw the largest improvement, climbing 12 points since 2007 to 81%. Department of Transportation data on flight delays of any type provide one explanation -- flight delays have generally been on the decline and, in particular, the monthly on-time arrival rate for October 2015 was near a 20-year high.

Fliers are largely satisfied with most other aspects of air travel, including the air schedules (80%), the speed and reliability of luggage systems (78%) and the procedures for getting through checkpoints (73%). A comparatively smaller majority were satisfied with how airlines handle flight delays or cancelations (62%).

Majority of Americans Did Not Fly Last Year

Fifty-five percent of Americans say they did not take any trips on a commercial airliner in the past 12 months, a seven-point increase from 2007. However, this figure is still broadly in line with estimates from previous Gallup surveys extending back to 2000. This increase comes amid falling gas prices, which are at their lowest levels since 2009. While a declining fuel price should theoretically make air travel and driving more affordable, it has minimally affected the cost of airplane tickets. At the same time, 57% of U.S. households say lower pump prices have made a notable difference in their finances.


Forty-four percent of U.S. adults flew last year, which is comparable with rates measured in late 2007 and 2008. But those who are flying are doing more of it; the average number of flights adults took over the past year is 4.6, up from 4.2 in 2012 and the highest figure since December 2006.


Bottom Line

From delays to long security lines to cramped seating arrangements, air travel fills many Americans with anxiety and dread. But air travelers are generally satisfied with most aspects of the experience, particularly with the courtesy of the airline personnel. While flight delays are never a welcome development for any traveler, more fliers are satisfied with airlines' on-time performance than have been in the past.

The comfort of airline seating remains the least satisfying part of air travelers' journeys, and fliers' satisfaction with ticket prices is falling. These findings contrast with the relative positivity with which passengers view other aspects of air travel.

Fliers' satisfaction with specific aspects of the flying experience is significantly different from how engaged fliers might be as customers of the airlines. Gallup research has shown that customer engagement is the most important factor in predicting brand loyalty and return purchases, and that engagement can vary substantially across airline brands.

Historical data are available in Gallup Analytics.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Dec. 2-6, 2015, with a random sample of 824 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. For results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. For results based on the total sample of 405 adults who have flown on a plane in the past year, the margin of sampling error is ±6 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. All reported margins of sampling error include computed design effects for weighting.

Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 60% cellphone respondents and 40% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by time zone within region. Landline and cellular telephone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods.

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