WASHINGTON, US - FRUSTRATED by delays, cancellations, and hassles at airports including lost luggage and long security lines, Americans have turned massively away from air travel, a poll showed Thursday.
'The survey results shows that air travellers avoided 41 million trips in the last 12 months ... because of the hassle of flying,' Mr Roger Dow, president of the Travel Industry Association (TIA), which commissioned the poll, told a news conference.
'That's 100,000 trips a day and the cost impact to the US economy is a whopping US$26.5 billion (S$36 billion),' he said.
The chief reasons given for avoiding air travel by the 1,003 adults surveyed by telephone earlier this month were 'inefficient security screening and flight cancellations and delays,' said Mr Allan Rivlin, a partner at Peter D. Hart Research Associates, which conducted the survey with the Winston Group.
A majority of poll respondents - 53 per cent of the 1,003 adults surveyed by telephone earlier this month - singled out flight delays and cancellations as the main area of air travel that could use some improvements.
Thirty-six per cent said getting through security was the biggest hassle, 26 per cent cited 'retrieving checked luggage", while just 15 per cent of respondents said there was room for improvement in the inflight experience.
Nearly two-thirds of Americans said they thought the air travel system in the United States was already bad and getting worse, and one-quarter of the poll respondents said it was 'broken.'
'There's a lot of frustration among travellers in general and in particular among frequent flyers. The frustration grows the more trips you take,' Mr Rivlin told reporters.
'The parts of the system that are the most frustrating are not the ones that are directly under the airlines' control,' he said.
The millions of trips not taken cost airlines US$9 billion dollars in revenues and impacted on other areas of the travel and tourism industry.
Hotels could have reaped an additional US$6 billion and restaurants more than US$3 billion if more Americans had decided to travel during the past 12 months, TIA said.
Recent spikes in fuel prices, which have been passed on in various ways to the consumer by airlines - American Airlines this month announced it will charge US$15 per checked bag - could drive even more Americans away from air travel.
'If there's a dynamic here where people are frustrated ... (higher costs) will only enhance the reasons for them not to travel,' Mr Dow said.
The TIA, a non-profit organisation that represents the US$740 billion US travel industry, called on Congress and contenders for the White House to address the issue of deteriorating air travel conditions in the United States.
'We need Washington to make this an absolute priority. This has a huge economic impact. It's the way we do life and business. We need action to improve the situation,' Mr Dow said.
Travel one of the top industries in US
According to the TIA, travel and tourism is one of the top industries in the United States and employs one out of every eight Americans.
'We have to get on the radar screen what the implications of this are,' said Mr Dow.
'Not just the implications for hotels and airlines but for the person who doesn't go to a convention or the person who doesn't go to get the deal for their small company. We have to look at the impact this has way beyond the travel industry,' he said.
The TIA has called an emergency summit of travel leaders on June 17 to discuss how to push the air travel crisis higher up onto policymakers' agendas.
The poll was the first of its kind, a spokeswoman for TIA said. -- AFP