Summer air travel forecast: Turbulent
July 29, 2009
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  • May 23, 2008

    Frequent flyers are disgruntled as air travel worsens and prices rise, according to a new survey released Thursday.

    At the same time, the airline travel forecast for this summer is discouraging. Travelers should expect more delays and more problems with lost bags and other services, say the survey’s authors.

    The Web-based survey was conducted by Wichita State University associate professor Dean Headley and University of Nebraska-Omaha professor Brent Bowen. They also are the authors of the annual Airline Quality Ratings.

    Ninety-three percent of the frequent flyers responding said they felt all aspects of air travel were getting worse or staying the same, Headley said.

    Most survey respondents said on-time performance was most important to them, followed almost equally by baggage and customer service.

    Travelers want to be “on time with my bags in my possession,” Headley said.

    More than 5,000 active and frequent travelers responded to the survey. Most were men, frequent flyers and well educated; 20 percent of them fly more than 10 times a year.

    The summer travel season begins this weekend and travelers should brace themselves for a lower performance by the airline industry, Headley said.

    Last summer, on-time performance was lower than at other times of the year while customer complaints and the number of mishandled bags rose, Headley said.

    “Summer is just not going to be a lot of fun,” Headley said.

    Passengers should check their bags, but carry on a bag with medications, clothing, documents or work items to get by for a couple of days in case their bags arrive late, Headley said.

    “Make sure you can do what you need to do for at least two days,” he said.

    It’s better to book flights through a travel agent, Headley said. That way if a flight is canceled, a passenger has an ally who knows the system to help find another flight, he said.

    Headley questions the wisdom of American Airlines’ decision to charge travelers $15 to check one bag. United Airlines and three other large U.S. carriers are considering following American’s lead.

    For one, passengers will bring more bags into the cabin, making loading the airplane more troublesome, Headley said.

    Plus, people are already unhappy when their bags don’t arrive, Headley said.

    “Just think how they’re going to be when they’re charged $15 for the mishandled bag,” he said. “I would not want to be in their customer service department.”

    Reach Molly McMillin at 316-269-6708 or

    Date: 2008-05-23