Customer Satisfaction with Air Travel Up in 2016, According to Latest Status of Air Travel in the U.S. Report

Satisfaction among Global Entry, TSA Pre✓® enrollees higher than average 2016 flier

Seventy-eight percent favor reforms that modernize air traffic control system 

Download 2017 Status of Air Travel in the United States Presentation

View Ipsos Top Line Findings

WASHINGTON, February 28, 2017Happy with where they have been and excited about where they are going, 2016 fliers were more satisfied with their air travel experiences and are looking forward to more trips in 2017. In its latest commissioned survey of the American population – the Status of Air Travel in the United States – Airlines for America (A4A), the industry trade organization for the leading U.S. airlines, found that nearly half (49%) of respondents said they flew commercially at least once in 2016, up from 45 percent in 2015 and more than double what it was in 1971 (21%). Among 2016 fliers, 69 percent of all trips were taken for personal reasons – unchanged from 2015.

Also on the rise: satisfaction with their overall air travel experience. According to the survey, 85 percent of 2016 passengers said they were “very satisfied” or “somewhat satisfied,” up from 80 percent of 2015 fliers. This includes the 43 percent of passengers who specifically stated they were “very satisfied,” up from 35 percent in 2015. Of the remainder, 10 percent were “neutral,” and only 6 percent were either “somewhat dissatisfied” or “very dissatisfied,” unchanged from 2015.

The survey, conducted in January 2017 by Ipsos Public Affairs, looked at who was traveling by air, why, where and how often. Travelers were asked to rate their air travel experience, to indicate what factors were considered when purchasing flights and surveyed about their upcoming travel plans.

“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,” said A4A Vice President and Chief Economist John Heimlich. “Airlines are increasingly enabling their customers to choose the service offerings and price points that meet their individual needs.”

According to the survey, customer satisfaction rises markedly with enrollment in expedited screening programs. Of the 2016 fliers enrolled in Global Entry, 68 percent said they were “very satisfied” with their overall air travel experience, while 50 percent of TSA Pre✓® enrollees say they were “very satisfied.” Overall satisfaction for enrollees in those programs was 92 percent and 88 percent, respectively.

Passengers were most satisfied with the process of checking in for their flights, followed by shopping for/booking flights, boarding the aircraft, reliability of on-time departure and arrival, awaiting checked baggage upon arrival at destination and getting through security.

Fliers said most/all of their flights were satisfactory

When asked about the share of satisfactory flights in 2016, 87 percent said all or most of their flights were satisfactory.

Flying is more accessible than ever, and the results showed that adults between 18 and 34 years old and those in households earning between $50-99K annually were among the most satisfied with their 2016 air travel experience (90% and 87% respectively). The survey also found that the same two demographics reported that most or all of their 2016 flights were satisfactory (89% for both groups).

Of the 2016 fliers who said they had submitted a complaint to a U.S. airline, 81 percent reported that the airline had addressed their complaint satisfactorily.

Nearly eight in 10 Americans support separation of air traffic control (ATC) operations and safety oversight

This year’s survey asked participants for their opinion on reforming the nation’s ATC system. The results show that 78 percent of Americans support reforming ATC so that the system could keep pace with modernization efforts as long as the federal government retains safety oversight.

This is in line with reform efforts advocated by A4A, Business Roundtable, the National Air Traffic Controllers Association and several pilots unions calling for the separation of the ATC service provider from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Under this proposal, the FAA continues to regulate safety and the ATC service provider is an independent not-for-profit entity and free from the politics that have held back modernization programs.

“Airlines are an integral part of our nation’s economy and the flying and shipping public deserve state-of-the-art air traffic infrastructure,” said Heimlich. “Americans made it clear they support the FAA regulating safety with an independent entity in charge of modernizing our skies.”

The proposed reforms are consistent with international best practices achieved by more than 40 other countries already. The benefits of modernizing our ATC infrastructure include: enhanced safety, reduced delays, fuel savings, reduced emissions, increased capacity and greater operational efficiency.

Affordable airfare, schedules and comfort priorities for 2016 fliers

As affordable airfare and availability of convenient flight schedules have made it easier to see and conduct business around the world, American travelers are readying their suitcases; 83 percent of Americans said they would take as many or more trips in 2017.

Of those with plans to fly more in 2017, 43 percent said the primary factor in their decision is their greater need and/or desire to travel for personal reasons while 17 percent noted an increase in personal income and/or household wealth; 11 percent stated that airfare affordability was the primary factor in planning to travel more and 8 percent said greater availability of destinations or more convenient airline schedules was the primary factor.

When choosing an airline, both business and personal travelers prioritize price, though flight schedules and on-time performance are close behind. The survey found that overall affordability ranked as the first priority for both business and personal travelers, followed in order by flight schedules, reliability of on-time departure and arrival, airline seat comfort, customer service, quality of inflight amenities, airline frequent flier programs and environmental responsibility.

Download 2017 Status of Air Travel in the United States Presentation and view Ipsos top line findings.

About the survey

The Status of Air Travel in the United States survey was conducted Jan. 6 -13, 2017 as an online survey of 5,047 members of the American general public, age 18+ by Ipsos Public Affairs on behalf of Airlines for America.


Airlines for America (A4A) members are Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Atlas Air, Delta Air Lines, FedEx, Hawaiian Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Southwest Airlines, United Airlines and UPS. Air Canada is an associate member.

A4A advocates on behalf of the leading U.S. airlines, both passenger and cargo carriers. A4A works collaboratively with industry stakeholders, federal agencies, the Administration, Congress, labor and other groups to improve aviation for the traveling and shipping public.

For more information about the airline industry, visit our website and our blog, A Better Flight Plan, at

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