We Should Have More Government Investment and Lower Taxes. And a Pony.

Chris McGinnis points to a survey by the US Travel Association arguing that people avoid flying because of delays and cancellations, which they suggest are because of lack of government investment in airport infrastructure and air traffic control improvements.

They argue that 38 million domestic plane trips were avoided in 2013, for a total airfare loss of ~ $9.5 billion.

And piling on, just like advocates for sports stadiums, they argue that this means a broader loss for the overall economy of $35.7 billion through lost hotel bookings, rental cars, dining out, and recreation. Because anyone who doesn’t take a plane trip sits at home. In the dark. Without heating or air conditioning. And doesn’t eat. (Which would suggest they save, which might be a good thing, although the positive effects of a higher savings rate are ignored.)

If they’re avoiding plane travel they might be driving or taking the train, which would pick up the same additional economic activity, tradeoffs aside. The survey doesn’t address this. Or they might be video conferencing, which while a second best to in-person meetings has additional productivity benefits for time in the office and cost savings on airfare may get invested elsewhere or distributed as profits and.. spent.

There’s no question that if air travel were a quicker, more seamless experience at the same or lower price that would stimulate demand. Survey data is an unreliable measure of this though.

  • If you ask people whether air travel is annoying, they are going to say yes.

  • And if you then ask people whether their already expressed belief influences their behavior, they are going to say yes.

The US Travel Association release on the study complains about high taxes on aviation activities while pushing for more government spending on those activities.

Meanwhile the number two concern expressed in the survey is ancillary fees for baggage, seat assignments, and other things.

In other words, just like the US Travel Association, passengers want more for less. And a pony.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I agree most large US airports are dumps, but I invite you to come up to Canada and experience our $20-30 per departure “airport improvement fees”. Those stained carpets at your local US airport will start to look really good really quick.

    As a foreigner who spends a LOT of time in the US, there are only two large gripes with US air travel:

    1) TSA, TSA, TSA, TSA, TSA, TSA. Blow it up.
    2) The new “tourist tax” to pay for the idiotic “Visit USA” campaign that has placed ads with Canadian media outlets. We know where America is and what it offers. Give me my $30 back.

  2. With all this horsecr@p their must be a pony somewhere!So where is the link for the card with the sign bonus to get my pony? What is the spend required?

  3. @Jeff – “TSA, Blow it up.” is not the kind of comment you want to publish as a foreigner who spends time in USA airport security lines.

  4. @Jeff: As a Canadian I agree with you. Fortunately, our airfares are so high that the airport improvement fee is just a drop in the overall bucket!

    As for the TSA, they truly showcase the worst of America for all to see. That being said, CATSA is just as slow and inefficient (although marginally more polite).

  5. @ric.
    You might consider giving Jeff a break given his government isn’t quite (quite yet…see g8 security crackdowns in Toronto) at the same grandstanding fear mongering ours so often displays.

    WF used to have a cc signup bonus of…A STUFFED PONY!!!! Take that chase!

  6. Some of us think airport taxes and fees should be spent on improving air travel infrastructure, rather than on studies of how global warming is affecting the reproductive rates of bats in caves in New Mexico, etc.

    That’s not asking for a free lunch, it’s asking to actually get the lunch we’ve already paid for….

    But only if that could be carried out by a private firm with a proven record of success. The FAA has done multimillion $ revamps of the ATC system several times, only to dump the whole new system because it didn’t work as well as the Obamacare rollout.

  7. Almost everyone in the world wants more for less. Human condition.

    People might like to drive to avoid the hassles of flying, and then they realize that there is also too much traffic and plenty of delays that can impede their progress on the roads, too.


  8. @Robert Hanson… oh dear God – casually tossing around “Obamacare”, as if there have never been any problems ever with rolling out large IT systems attempting to integrate various other systems, to describe something where it doesn’t even apply should now be the litmus test for identifying people who have no clue what they’re talking about. I’m surprised you didn’t throw in BENGHAZI!!!! in there somewhere….

  9. (Which would suggest they save, which might be a good thing, although the positive effects of a higher savings rate are ignored.)

    *sigh* Look, I understand the temptation, but if you know literally nothing whatsoever about economics, it might be wise to just not throw in little tidbits like this.

    As for Mr. Hanson’s comment… yes, of course, we should pay the lowest bidder to do it for us. And then when they fail, we should blame the government for their failure. Because that is the American way… or at least, that’s the way that enriches the conservatives who run the lowest bidder.

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