True or False: 85% of Travelers Are Satisfied with the Airlines

a group of people on an airplane

Based on my own experience, on feedback from readers, and from other traveler-satisfaction surveys, my best guess is that consumers are pretty dissatisfied with the current state of air travel.

Flights are full. Seats are packed tighter than ever. Niggling fees are budget-crushers. Lines are long. What’s to like?

Airlines for America, the trade group that represents the interests of most U.S. airlines, begs to differ. According to the organization’s latest Status of Air Travel in the United States report, 85 percent of those surveyed were either “somewhat satisfied” or “very satisfied” with their overall airline experience. Ten percent were “neutral” on travel, and a mere 6 percent were either “somewhat dissatisfied” or “very dissatisfied.”

How does A4A explain the results, which seem so at odds with my own admittedly unscientific expectations? According to the news release:

Enhanced 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 today, resulting in even more satisfaction around their flying experience.

Tell that to the flyer crammed into the middle coach seat of a full flight as he chows down on over-salted peanuts and bitter coffee.

A4A has a vested interest in putting the best face on the airlines’ performance; the organization is paid to do just that. So it’s no surprise that their surveys’ results reliably align with their mission. Educated consumers are savvy enough to consider the source.

But even as travelers will surely take A4A’s findings with a grain of salt, there’s cause for concern. If the organization’s customers, the U.S. airlines, take the positive reviews seriously, they’re unlikely to take the steps necessary to address travelers’ very real needs and complaints. Travelers, then, can only hope the airlines follow their lead when assessing the survey results, and consider the source.

Reader Reality Check

On a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being “very dissatisfied” and 5 being “very satisfied,” how would you rate your overall satisfaction with air travel?

After 20 years working in the travel industry, and almost that long writing about it, Tim Winship knows a thing or two about travel. Follow him on Twitter @twinship.

This article first appeared on, where Tim is Editor-at-Large.


  1. Christian says

    1. Maybe a 2 if you luck out hugely on specific airports, food, service and seats, all for the same flight. Otherwise, it’s just awful. Obviously this is a perfect example of the dangers of accepting an extremely skewed poll. If some semi neutral group like AAA took the poll, there would still be a lot of suspicion, but A4A is well known for saying pretty much anything to serve their interest. This abrogates any value that the poll might have, but I suppose it’s a whole lot cheaper to present a hugely unlikely poll than to make actual improvements to your airline.

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