Survey confirms: air travel sucks

A new survey confirms what most travelers already know: modern air travel can be stressful, frustrating and exhausting.

“Air travel has lost its spark,” said Tom Rossbach, director of aviation architecture for HNTB, the architecture, engineering and construction company that commissioned the survey. “Going to the airport just isn’t as glamorous as it used to be. Now it’s just a chore.”

Of the survey’s 1,000 U.S. respondents, 44 percent called air travel stressful, 41 percent said it was frustrating and 32 percent declared it downright exhausting. Very few people (16 percent) found air travel easy, luxurious (5 percent) or relaxing (7 percent).

Math whizzes will note that these totals add up to more than 100 percent but survey respondents were allowed to choose more than one answer to the question: “Air travel is…”

Not surprisingly, the survey found that air travelers are displeased with the modern-day airport security-screening process. “The biggest frustration is with waiting in those long lines,” said Rossbach.


Only 22 percent said airport security-screening procedures were effective and only 11 percent said it was efficient. A mere 4 percent found it pleasant while 42 percent found the security checkpoint “a hassle.”

But some travelers are optimistic that new technology and better airport amenities can help patch things up.

According to the survey, almost half of Americans think that over that last 10 years there’s been improvement in terminal amenities such as shops, food options and entertainment. And more than half count the now ubiquitous self-check-in kiosks among the improvements.

Going forward, more than a quarter of the survey respondents would like to see paper baggage tags replaced by electronic GPS tags. And 53 percent said they’d feel safer in an airplane that had “NextGen” GPS technology installed, instead of the current radar-based system.

More than 10 percent of respondents would also like to see improvements at airport drop-off and pick-up curbs and at the departure gate lounges as well as a few more designated areas for quiet or conversation.

“We’re going to take this information and use to it design better airports with facilities that are easier to manage and much more enjoyable to be in,” said Rossbach.

100 percent of travelers would most likely say yes to that.

(I first wrote this story for’s Overhead Bin)

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8 thoughts on “Survey confirms: air travel sucks

  1. Tara Boyd says:

    I agree that airports can be a pain, but most of the experience has to do with attitude. I always smile, act friendly and talk with TSA workers because I know they have a rough job. It’s been my experience since I’ve started doing this that the staff are nicer and more willing to help.
    That being said, airports can always improve on their designs. I’d like to see more airports that designated areas for business travelers or those using their computers because I often have a hard time finding a spot to charge my laptop between flights.

  2. J says:

    The only complaint I have about flying is the large amount of carry on items people stuff into the bins. It takes too long to board and disembark.

  3. Salt Lake Airport Shuttle says:

    This is a great infographic!! My experience flying tends to agree with the high percentages of what other people are saying in the two pictures above. People tend to have problems with the security screening check. My biggest deal with that is not that it is too invasive, but that it takes so long!!

    I have had experiences where it has taken me an extra hour to get through the security check. In addition to improvements they could make there, I LOVE the idea of GPS tags on our luggage.

    One of my most painful experiences losing luggage was over Christmas and I was headed to Hawaii. The airlines lost my bags and I did not have any extra clothes during my entire vacation there. It took them 5 days to get me my lost luggage.

  4. Agree: go expecting a great adventure. And, more and more, that adventure does indeed begin at the airport. Thanks for your comment, Christine.

  5. Harriet,
    Once again a great job of providing accessible information to your readers. My problem with the travel-is-a-hassle story is that it reinforces the notion that air travel is something to endure rather than enjoy.

    My unscientific research shows that when to describe a pleasant experience during the travel-portion of a trip, most everyone has at least one. Your reports from airports around the world are the illustration of this.

    A great trip begins in the head. Go expecting that whatever happens it will be a marvelous adventure and that’s the kind of experience you will have. People who love to travel and who love airplanes, as you and I do, need to keep repeating this message.

  6. Norm says:

    Would like to see free WiFi, some airports do, some don’t.

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