Survey results: Airfare prices are cutting deep

Last week I asked you to complete a survey and share your feelings about the rising cost of airfare, and oh boy, did you have a lot to say. The full survey results are below, but I'll briefly sum up the highlights and some of your comments. Gauging from the feedback I got I'd say most of you are somewhere among Kubler-Ross' five stages of grief—mostly in the denial and anger stages:

    "I can't believe we are paying such high prices for flying and at the same time having horrible experiences— something has to stop."

    "People need to revolt against this!"

. . . Although a couple of you seem to have moved into the acceptance stage:

    "Let's be honest here. We have been getting a bargain price for flights for years now. The reality is setting in."

    "Prices do need to rise."

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Most of you are concerned about the cost of air travel, with 84 percent of respondents saying they might have to cut back on flying this year, mostly leisure trips. Quite a few have already canceled trips because of price, or are thinking about it.

    "We already canceled one trip and opted for another closer to home. Costs definitely have affected our plans."

    "After my mom put me through college and graduate school as a single parent, I wanted to take her to Hawaii, but with the hike in rates, I might have to cancel and break her heart."

About of third of you won't let airfare costs limit where you go for summer vacation because you were either smart and already booked your tickets with cash or miles (24 percent) or will go where you want to go, cost be damned (6 percent):

    "I booked all of my airline tickets early in 2008 and offset the huge fare increases by using frequent flyer miles."

    "Go and have fun. I keep going back to the thought: ''It's only money.'"

The majority (70 percent) of respondents, however, will be changing their travel plans. Some will be taking shorter-haul air trips (15 percent) or staying grounded (24 percent taking road trips, 7 percent vacationing at home, and 24 postponing travel.)

    "Normally we fly overseas and take a few domestic trips for vacations. This year we're staying within a few hours of home. "

    "The overall increase in prices has led me to have a 'stay-cation' this year. The costs of gasoline, food, hotel prices, etc., make it more attractive to stay home and enjoy the local area."

    "With a weak economy, shocking gas and travel prices, and a very weak dollar, I can barely leave my house."

As to whether you'd be willing to pay more if it means more comfortable seating and better service, most of you say no (45 percent) or maybe a little (41 percent). Almost no one was interesting in paying 20 percent or more for higher quality. Many of you are already highly annoyed at having to pay fees for services that used to be free:

    "I recently checked on airfares for a trip and was amazed that on one particular airline I was being charged for everything! I was going to be charged extra just to get a seat next to my husband."

    "The airline is nickel and diming us to death!!!! We pay outrageous ticket prices, now they charge for our bags and food, ridiculous!!!!"

I apparently didn't ask enough specific questions, because dozens of you voiced your opinions on other airfare-related topics not covered in the survey. In particular, the cost of Europe travel seems to weigh heavily:

    "We are going to Paris this summer because we had already committed to going with a group. If we could have gotten out of it, we probably would have canceled."

    "My economic stimulus check is going straight to the EU coffers!"

    "I want to go to France to stay with friends, but I can't afford the $1,000-plus fares. How can I find something cheaper?"

A few of you had some choice (and unprintable) words to share about the government and airline executives:

    "Airfare, gas, etc., should have been addressed when Bush took office, not eight years later. When someone else comes into office, it'll take another eight years just to turn around what our current President has done!"

    "If the folks in Washington D.C. don't start treating airlines as a quasi-public utility (which it is) then we will continue to see that industry in the U.S. go the way of other neglected industries."

    "How about the CEO's reducing their take to help make flying more affordable. Nah, we know that will never happen! No meals, no pillows, customer service is minimal at best, seats are jammed together— but who cares?"

    "Seems the execs are still getting their bonuses and not taking the same hit as passengers, and they make enough in salary already!!!!!"

I'll try to address some of the other issues in upcoming stories. In the meantime, here's a closer look at our current situation.

1. How concerned are you about the increasing cost of air travel?

Very concerned, I fly often and higher prices may limit how often I travel 27%
Concerned, I usually take a few air trips per year and may have to reconsider my plans. 57%
A little concerned, I don't fly much and might stay grounded this year. 7%
A little concerned, I fly a decent amount and can afford to pay more, but I'm not happy. 8%
Not concerned, I don't fly. 0%
Not concerned, money is no object for me. 0%

2. Will increasing airfare costs limit the amount of flying you do this year?

Yes, my leisure trips will be limited. 65%
Yes, my business trips will be limited. 0%
Yes, both my business and leisure trips will be limited. 22%
No. 13%

3. How will higher airfares affect your summer vacation plans?

They won't, I already booked and paid for my trip. 24%
They won't, I'm willing to pay more to go where I want to go. 6%
I plan to fly, but to someplace closer and cheaper than I had originally planned. 15%
I'll be driving to my destination this year instead of flying. 19%
I normally drive somewhere for my summer vacation. 5%
I'll have a stay-at-home vacation. 7%
I'll postpone my vacation plans for another time. 24%

4. Would you be willing to pay higher airfare and/or extra fees if it meant more comfortable economy class seating and better service?

No. 45%
Yes, but not much more than what I'm already paying. 41%
Yes, I'd pay 10 to 20 percent more. 13%
Yes, I'd pay 20 to 40 percent more. 1%
Yes, I'd pay 40 percent more or higher. 0%

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