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85% of Travelers Are Satisfied with Airlines. Really?

How satisfied are you with the current state of commercial air travel?

If I had to guess, based on both my own experience and the feedback I receive from readers, I’d say that the consensus answer would be: Not very.

Flights are full. Seats are packed tighter than ever. Niggling fees are budget-crushers. Lines are long. What’s to like?

Airlines for America, the trade group that represents the interests of most U.S. airlines, begs to differ. According to the organization’s latest Status of Air Travel in the United States report, 85 percent of those surveyed were either “somewhat satisfied” or “very satisfied” with their overall airline experience. Ten percent were “neutral” on travel, and a mere 6 percent were either “somewhat dissatisfied” or “very dissatisfied.”

How does A4A explain the results, which seem so at odds with my own admittedly unscientific expectations? According to the news release:

Enhanced amenities like gourmet food options, further investments in technology, both at the airport and onboard the aircraft, and collaborative industry-government efforts to expedite screening for travelers at security checkpoints are further enhancing consumers’ positive views of air travel today, resulting in even more satisfaction around their flying experience.

Tell that to the flyer crammed into the middle coach seat of a full flight as he chows down on over-salted peanuts and bitter coffee.

A4A has a vested interest in putting the best face on the airlines’ performance; the organization is paid to do just that. So it’s no surprise that their surveys’ results reliably align with their mission. Educated consumers are savvy enough to consider the source.

But even as travelers will surely take A4A’s findings with a grain of salt, there’s cause for concern. If the organization’s customers, the U.S. airlines, take the positive reviews seriously, they’re unlikely to take the steps necessary to address travelers’ very real needs and complaints. Travelers, then, can only hope the airlines follow their lead when assessing the survey results, and consider the source.

Reader Reality Check

On a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being “very dissatisfied” and 5 being “very satisfied,” how would you rate your overall satisfaction with air travel?

More from SmarterTravel:

After 20 years working in the travel industry, and 15 years writing about it, Tim Winship knows a thing or two about travel. Follow him on Twitter @twinship.

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