Most US air travelers support separating US air traffic control (ATC) operations and safety as long as the US federal government continues to oversee and/or regulate safety, according to a new study released Feb. 28 by US industry trade organization Airlines for America (A4A).

According to A4A’s "Status of Air Travel in the United States" report—extracted from an early January 2017 online survey of 5,047 US citizens—63% somewhat favored the prospect, 15% strongly favored it, 18% somewhat opposed it, and 4% strongly opposed it.

“The results show that 78% of Americans support reforming ATC so that the system could keep pace with modernization efforts as long as the federal government retains safety oversight,” A4A said.

“Airlines are an integral part of our nation’s economy and the flying and shipping public deserve state-of-the-art air traffic infrastructure,” A4A VP and chief economist John Heimlich said. “Americans made it clear they support the FAA regulating safety with an independent entity in charge of modernizing our skies.”

In other sections of the survey, respondents were queried about expedited screening enrollment programs. Among people who flew in 2016, 68% of fliers enrolled in Global Entry were “very satisfied” with their overall air travel experience while 50% of TSA Pre-check enrollees were “very satisfied.” Overall satisfaction was 92% for Global Entry enrollees and 88% for TSA Pre-check enrollees.

For travelers who were not enrolled in expedited screening programs, 43% of respondents said the cost of the programs outweighed the benefits, while 30% said they were unaware the programs even existed.

Regarding the airport and airline traveling processes, checking in for the flight was rated highest for overall satisfaction among the respondents. Shopping for and/or purchasing the ticket was second, followed by the boarding process; reliability of on-time departure and arrival; awaiting checked baggage upon arrival at destination; and getting through security.

In 2016, 69% of all trips were taken for personal reasons (51% of these were for leisure) with 31% of all US airline trips for business. The breakdown of personal versus business was unchanged from 2015.

When asked about their overall experience with air travel in 2016, 43% gave a “very satisfied” rating, up from 35% in 2015, and 42% gave a “somewhat satisfied” rating, down 2 points from 2015.

“Amenities like gourmet food options, further investments in technology—both at the airport and onboard the aircraft—and collaborative industry-government efforts to expedite screening for travelers at security checkpoints are further enhancing consumers’ positive views of air travel,” Heimlich said.

Eighty-three percent of respondents said they would take as many or more trips in 2017. Among the 28% who indicated they would fly more, 43% said the primary factor in their decision is their greater need and/or desire to travel for personal reasons. Rising personal income or wealth was given as a reason by 17% of those who will fly more; increased business needs was 15%; air travel affordability was 11% and airline schedule convenience was 8%.

As for choosing which airline to fly, price was the top determining factor for both business and personal travelers, followed by flight schedules, reliability of on-time departure and arrival, the comfort of the airline’s seats, customer service, the quality of inflight amenities, the airline’s frequent flier program and the airline’s environmental responsibility policy and measures.

The survey was conducted by polling firm Ipsos Public Affairs on behalf of A4A.

Mark Nensel