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Survey: Airline passenger satisfaction declines slightly in 2017

Frustrations with security screening and baggage claim were pain points for passengers as satisfaction with the air travel experience declined slightly in 2017, according to a new survey released by an airline industry group.

A total of 81 percent of travelers said they were satisfied with their overall air travel experience, Airlines for America found in its survey conducted by Ipsos Public Affairs. That’s down from 85 percent in 2016.

Airlines for America chief economist John Heimlich pointed to the United Airines passenger dragging incident, hurricanes, the power outage at the Atlanta airport and  other incidents that affected the perception of air travel in 2017, yet the survey found only 1 percent of travelers were “very dissatisfied.”

Travelers gave the lowest marks to the process of getting through security and waiting for checked bags.

The way passengers are getting to the airport is changing rapidly, according to the survey’s findings. A quarter of business travelers said Uber or Lyft are their typical means of getting to the airport, more than twice the share that depend on taxis. Business travelers’ use of Uber and Lyft is up from 20 percent a year ago.

Close to half of Americans -- 48 percent -- flew on an airline last year, according to the survey. That’s up from 25 percent in 1977.

“Compared to air travel of a generation ago that was heavily focused on those traveling for business, this shows that Americans view air travel as widely available and accessible and a principal form of intercity and international transportation,” said Ipsos Public Affairs president Chris Jackson in a written statement.

The average American adult took 2.5 airline trips in 2017, according to the survey.

“It’s actually a lot of people taking a few trips,” Jackson said.

More than a third of travelers -- 34 percent -- said they are not currently enrolled in any frequent flier program. 

The survey of 5,046 American adults was conducted online in January 2018.

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About the Author

Business reporter Kelly Yamanouchi covers airlines and the airport.