New research out last week from the U.S. airlines’ lobbyist group finds that a record 151 million passengers will be traveling by air this spring, up four percent from the same time last year. That’s some serious economic potential for our country—but one wonders what could be if our air travel system were actually equipped to handle the added strain.
The fact is that even more people would fly—and create more American jobs—if air travel were not such a hassle. According to a Morning Consult poll, American adults believe that the air travel experience has gotten worse in the past five years. Namely:
- 60 percent say airline fees, such as fees for checked bags, flight changes, and seat assignments have gotten worse;
- 51 percent say the overall airline costs (fees + airfares) had gotten worse;
- 47 percent say airport hassles, like long lines, crowded terminals, and moving from one part of the airport to another have gotten worse.
And in 2016 alone, Americans avoided 32 million air trips because of these deficiencies, costing the U.S. economy more than $24 billion in additional spending.
Thankfully, there are several concrete policy solutions in sight, including raising the cap on the Passenger Facility Charge (PFC), which would remove airport capital financing from the Beltway political quicksand and allow localities to fix their facilities’ issues. Major U.S. airlines, which have no veto power over PFC rates, often object to increasing the PFC, because it is a onetime user fee used to invest in projects that encourage more competition, such as gate expansions or improvements to terminals used by smaller competitor airlines.
However, per Morning Consult’s research, strong majorities of Americans say that Congress should modernize aviation infrastructure; prioritize the needs of passengers; allow airports more flexibility to invest in programs that increase options for travelers; and raise the PFC cap.
We couldn’t agree more. With FAA reauthorization set to expire at the end of this month, we urge Congress to listen to the needs of the traveling public, and the 15.3 million Americans whose jobs are supported by travel.