A record-breaking summer of travel demand sharpened the impact of government inefficiencies and hassles across the travel system, potentially resulting in air travelers taking an average of two fewer trips per year at a projected total cost of $71 billion to the U.S. economy—according to a new U.S. Travel survey from Ipsos.
“When nearly 60% of recent air travelers find the experience the equivalent or worse than going to the DMV, it is a concerning signal that demands action,” said U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Geoff Freeman. “With greater focus, it is well within the federal government’s ability to make improvements across the travel ecosystem.”
The impact of traveler frustrations equates to 27 million avoided trips in total and $71 billion in losses for the U.S. economy, including $4.5 billion in lost tax revenue. (Ipsos, Longwoods International and U.S. Travel)
Half of air travelers said they would travel more in the next six months if the experience were less of a hassle. Similarly, business travelers would take an average of two more trips per year if travel frictions improved, resulting in 18 million additional trips and $52 billion in economic impact.
Freeman noted the numerous ways the federal government is failing travelers, such as outdated security screening technology, inconsistent waits at Customs and airport security checkpoints, and months (or years)-long delays for U.S. visitor visas.
“The security screening experience travelers encounter today is effectively the same as it was 21 years ago when the TSA was established,” said Freeman. “While air travel is safer than ever, the process for most air travelers has not evolved. Screening processes and technologies in the United States are falling behind those in other nations. It’s time to lead the way.”
This new survey comes just days after Congress passed a short-term patch to keep the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) funded—while a long-term reauthorization bill for the agency awaits Senate passage.
Freeman cited two near-term opportunities for the U.S. to improve the air travel experience. He first called for a long-term FAA reauthorization bill and confirmation of Michael G. Whitaker to serve as FAA administrator.
Second, Freeman urged U.S. officials to take a more active role in learning from best practices among global competitors to improve the overall travel experience, such as steps taken by Spain and the U.K. to end the liquid ban in carry-on luggage, thanks to advanced security technology.
Roughly two-thirds of recent air travelers are comfortable sharing their biometric data with either the government, a private corporation, or both. This is a significant opportunity for the U.S. to implement biometric technology more broadly and improve efficiency, as other countries have done.
“An effective partnership between the government and the travel industry can vastly improve the experience and efficiency of the air travel system and pay economic dividends far into the future,” said Freeman.
See more findings from the Q3 2023 Ipsos survey.
Listen to the full press conference recording.
U.S. Travel Association is the national, non-profit organization representing the $1.2 trillion travel industry, an essential contributor to our nation's economy and success. U.S. Travel produces programs and insights and advocates for policies to increase travel to and within the United States. Visit ustravel.org for information and recovery-related data.