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U.S. Travelers Don’t Mind Fees, It’s the Lines and Delays They Hate

Jun 23, 2014 5:00 am

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Airlines and their lobbying group Airlines for America are obsessed with disclosing all the fees except their own. This is just another validation that travelers care more about their efficiency.

— Jason Clampet

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Here’s a surprise.

Most air travelers wouldn’t mind paying more in fees — if it helps cut lines at airports.

Airlines have vehemently opposed proposals to increase government fees on airline tickets, saying higher costs would dampen demand for travel and hurt tourism.

But a majority (60%) of leisure and business travelers say they would support an increase if the money pays for improvements that reduce delays at airports, according to a new survey of 1,031 American travelers.

The survey, commissioned by a travel industry trade group, found that government fees ranked as the least frustrating fee or tax imposed on travelers. The most frustrating fee, according to the survey, was the $200 charge that airlines impose on passengers for changing or canceling flights.

“I was surprised that the government taxes and fees were at the bottom of the list,” said Erik Hansen, senior director of domestic policy for the U.S. Travel Association, which conducted the survey. “But if you think about what it pays for, it’s aviation security and infrastructure. You need every single one of those.”

When asked what bothers travelers most about taking a commercial flight, 30% said delays and 26% said airline fees. Near the bottom of the list was taxes, with only 1%.

Airlines for America, the trade group for the nation’s airlines, has strongly opposed recent proposals to increase government fees on airfares, saying there is no crisis in airport funding that calls for a fee hike.

Instead, the trade group says the federal government should focus on installing a new satellite-based tracking control system to replace the radar-based system used by air traffic controllers.

Supporters of the system–known as the Next Generation Air Transportation System–say it will allow controllers to put more planes on the runways and in the air with greater accuracy. The Federal Aviation Administration asked Congress this year for $1 billion to begin installing the new system, dubbed NextGen.

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