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Wealthy fliers dislike flying more than the masses

By Brad Tuttle
updated February 21, 2017

A new survey shows that less than half of all travelers have positive feelings about flying -- and that wealthier travelers are especially likely to view air travel in a negative light.

In the survey, conducted by marketing research firm PhoCusWright, one-quarter of travelers reported negative feelings about air travel, while 30 percent were neutral; the rest said they felt positive about the flying experience today. Unsurprisingly, the rise of baggage fees, preferred seating, and other charges over the past few years seems to bear much of the responsibility for increasingly negative sentiment: 38 percent of leisure travelers said they feel "slight or substantially worse" about today's airline experience compared to that of a few years ago, whereas only 13 percent rated flying as slightly or substantially better than it was.

What's particularly interesting is that affluent travelers (those earning $100,000 and up annually) are nearly twice as likely to view air travel in a negative light than folks who are less well-off. While only 17 percent of travelers earning less than $50K had somewhat or very negative sentiments regarding air travel, 32 percent of travelers earning $100K and up reported feeling that way.

A PhoCusWright researcher offered this analysis:

"Fliers are essentially giving airlines a grade of C+, which is barely above satisfactory," said Carroll Rheem, director, research. "But even more concerning for airlines is that their most valuable customers—business travelers and those with higher annual household incomes—are even less happy than the average."

Why the big difference in attitudes toward air travel? The answer's not quite clear, though it seems safe to assume that richer people simply fly more often. The more you fly, the more opportunities the airlines have to nickel-and-dime and otherwise annoy you.


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