Where the Happiest Flyers Come From

In case you were wondering, the happiest American travelers hail from Honolulu. That’s according to a new happiness study conducted by TripIt, which analyzed flight ratings from 575,000 travelers. Here are the 10 cities where the happiest flyers reside:

  1. Honolulu, HI
  2. Phoenix, AZ
  3. Nashville, TN
  4. St. Louis, MO
  5. Tampa, FL
  6. Milwaukee, WI
  7. Kansas City, MO
  8. Baltimore, MD
  9. Orlando, FL
  10. Albuquerque, NM

Why those cities? TripIt suggests, somewhat jokingly, that flyer happiness is a function of “regular access to vitamin D,” an allusion to the fact that many of the top-rated cities are in sunny climes. Perhaps. There certainly appears to be a positive correlation between good weather and travel satisfaction. But correlation shouldn’t be confused with causation.

Happiest Flyers by Airport

Not surprisingly, the airport travelers departed from or arrived at had a significant impact on flyers’ satisfaction. Here are the top-10 departure airports:

  1. MDW – Chicago
  2. DAL – Dallas
  3. BUR – Burbank
  4. HOU – Houston
  5. OAK – Oakland
  6. SAT – San Antonio
  7. SNA – Santa Ana
  8. STL – Louis
  9. BNA – Nashville
  10. SJC – San Jose

Yes, there’s a theme there. The three highest-rated airports are smaller, secondary airports in large metro areas. Chicago’s Midway plays second fiddle to Chicago O’Hare, as does Dallas Love Field to Dallas-Ft. Worth, and Burbank to Los Angeles International.

The takeaway: Where possible, choose the smaller of the available airports.

Happiest Flyers by Generation

If I had to guess, I would venture that older generations were less satisfied than younger generations. The logic: With a longer exposure to commercial flying, older travelers have experienced first hand the decline in air service over decades, and would be most likely to be dissatisfied with the current state of affairs.

TripIt’s findings were slightly different:

  • Most satisfied – Millennials (1983-1999)
  • Somewhat satisfied – Baby Boomers (1946-1964)
  • Somewhat dissatisfied – Xennials (1977-1983)
  • Most dissatisfied – Generation X (1965-1976)

So, rather than the Baby Boomers’ being the least satisfied, as I would have predicted, it’s the generation that followed them that’s most critical of the current state of flying. Perhaps the Boomers are so far removed in time from flying’s better days that they’ve forgotten how much better the air-travel experience used to be.

Reader Reality Check

Are you a happy flyer (and what generation are you)?

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 SmarterTravel.com, where Tim is Editor-at-Large.

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