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2012 United States Commercial Airline Usage

  • May 2013
  • 101 pages
  • Frost & Sullivan
Report ID: 1187522


Table of Contents

Perspectives of Traveling Consumers

In this customer research service, Frost & Sullivan measures consumer airline usage in order to define segments and profiles of air traveler types. The aim is to understand user knowledge of frequent flyer programs as well as satisfaction rates with current airline programs. The research also explores airport accessibility and the main methods of transportation to and from airports; it determines preferred check-in processes, investigates customer perceptions of the TSA screening processes, and investigates factors that impact a flyer’s layover experience. Data was collected through a Web-based survey, which was conducted in November 2012.

Research Objectives

Frost & Sullivan aims to measure consumer airline usage in order to:
• Segment and profile air traveler types
• Understand users’ knowledge of frequent flyer programs and their satisfaction with current programs
• Explore airport accessibility and the main methods of transportation to and from airports
• Determine preferred check-in process and important factors contributing to preference
• Investigate customer perceptions of TSA screening processes as well as the factors that impact that perception
• Investigate factors that impact a flyer’s layover experience


Web-based survey. The data was collected in November 2012.

To achieve the targeted number of responses, Frost & Sullivan partnered with a trusted Web panel-based supplier. Generally, Web panel members are compensated by the Web panel supplier to participate in surveys for which they qualify. For this research service, Frost & Sullivan surveyed consumers over X years-old who have traveled on a commercial airline in the United States within the previous six months.

Reporting Notes:
Due to rounding errors, percentages in charts and tables may not sum to 100.

Executive Summary

Traveler Segmentation:
Using multivariate analysis, surveyed air travelers were segmented into three groups for further analysis, including: vacation traveler, hybrid traveler, and business traveler.
Vacation travelers report that flying is a delightful experience. These travelers gather as much information as possible before buying a ticket so they can have many purchasing choices.
The hybrid traveler travels for vacation and business; this category reports buying souvenirs during layover time at airports. The hybrid traveler is often willing to pay to be more comfortable on a flight.
Business travelers fly for work, and view the traveling experience as a way to get from one destination to another. Business travelers use their travel time to work.

Frequent Flyer Programs:
Less than half of the travelers surveyed consider themselves knowledgeable when it comes to frequent flyer programs. Business travelers are the most knowledgeable group of travelers. Nearly two-thirds of the travelers surveyed are frequent flyer members of one or several commercial airlines. Important factors that determine satisfaction with frequent flyer programs include: ease of purchasing flights with miles, no blackout dates, and the option for miles to be used up to three years before expiring.
Correspondence analysis is used in this study to map the current competitive positioning of a particular airline versus competitors in relation to various attributes. It will provide key indications of challenges and opportunities associated with fine-tuning or repositioning a specific airline brand in the United States. Ease of purchasing flight with miles, no black out dates, and miles can be used for three years before expiring are associated closely with Alaska Airlines, United Airlines, and Southwest Airlines.

Airport Accessibility:
Overall, airports are fairly accessible as the largest proportion of travelers do not report any negative events while driving into the airport. Notably, Newark Liberty International (EWR) is rated as the most accessible airport. When it comes to negative accessibility experiences, travelers most commonly face traffic congestion on their way to the airport—especially among business travelers. Specifically, Chicago O'Hare International (ORD) and Los Angeles International (LAX) have the most traffic congestion.

Check-in Process:
The largest group of travelers prefer to use online check-in methods. The most important factors for the check in process are ease of check-in and respectful and helpful employees. Compared to other airlines, American Airlines is most associated with having an organized “line” and check-in process. Additionally, Southwest Airlines is associated with the same check-in process attributes as American Airlines. Meanwhile, Delta Airlines and United Airlines are associated closely together, as are US Airways and Alaska Airlines. JetBlue Airways is associated quite differently than other top airlines, as related to their check-in process.

TSA Screening Process:
More air travelers surveyed report positive experiences than negative experiences when going through the TSA screening process. Notably, air travelers departing from JFK report the best experiences. Security screening is now an unavoidable process; accordingly, airports should strive to treat air travelers with dignity and respect, while having a baseline of clear instructions. What air travelers report wanting is a security process that is clear, organized, and fast.

Layover Experience:
Over one quarter of travelers had layovers on their trips. Most layovers seem to occur at the Atlanta airport than at other airports. Most travelers do not try to avoid a specific airport. Vacation travelers and hybrid travelers are more likely to avoid a specific airport. ORD is the most avoided airport by travelers. Top services used at airports during layovers include restrooms and food service. Business travelers are more likely to use assistance getting around the airport, including currency exchange and barber or beauty shops. The least used services include emergency medical services. Assistance getting around the airport and travelers’ aid received the highest performance ratings. Due to the nature of these services, it is important that airports perform well.

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