Travelers say they’ll skip the airport and hit the road in 2011

by Christopher Elliott on December 29, 2010


How are you traveling in 2011?

In some ways, like you did this year. And in some ways not, according to a new survey.

Asked what mode of transportation they planned to use in 2011, most respondents indicated they would stay the course by cruising, driving, flying and using mass transport roughly the same as they did in 2010.

However, a significant number of travelers said they intended to fly less and drive more.

The poll of about 500 travelers, conducted in early December by the Consumer Travel Alliance, suggests next year could be a busy one for motorists, while demand for air travel could weaken slightly.

When it comes to air travel, a majority — 47 percent — said they planned to fly “about the same” in 2011. About 35 percent said they’d fly less, and only 17 percent said “more,” giving air travel the most negative numbers of any mode of transport.

Driving, on the other hand, had the highest positive ratings of any mode of transport. Nearly 40 percent of respondents said they planned to travel more by car next year. Again, a majority (49 percent) answered “about the same.”

Mass transit had the highest “about the same” numbers — roughly 68 percent.

Cruising may have a choppy year, too, if these numbers are any indication. While about 60 percent of the respondents are staying on course, 27 percent say they plan to cruise less in 2011.

So what’s behind these results? I asked.

Travelers who don’t want to fly are upset, for the most part, by the Transportation Security Administration’s new screening techniques.

“The new TSA scope-n-grope has finally pushed me too far,” says Katharine Chestnut, a marketer and frequent flier based in Atlanta. “I will limit, as much as possible, all travel by plane. I’m sorry to see the air travel industry suffer over this but it’s time for the US public to stand up for our rights and say, enough is enough.”

Vicki Stone, a virtual assistant from Fort Worth, Texas, says she’s already made the switch.

“My husband and I are already not flying,” she says. “We drove 80 hours round trip to visit Prince Edward Island, Canada instead of flying there, as we had in the past.”

Stone says it isn’t just the TSA’s aggressive new screening techniques, but the airlines’ business practices and dismal customer service.

“The airlines just added fuel to the fire when they started charging fees for luggage,” she says.

Bunnee Butterfield, a retiree from Lakewood, Wash., says she’s already canceled a trip planned for March, in part because of the pat-down problem.

“I will have to go to Boston in the spring, but have given some thought to leaving from a smaller airport with no scanners — yet,” she says.

Mary Graham sums up the feelings of a lot of travelers, which is that a combination of the TSA’s screening techniques and a lack of customer service are pushing her away from air travel.

“I got to a boiling point this year when the airline industry peaked at being sneaky about all their lovely fees and horrible customer service to boot. I decided to stop flying as my small effort of protest,” she says. “Then came the abusive, touchy-feely TSA agents and their radioactive porn machine. Oh my goodness, I saw the steam coming out of my ears and I knew it was all over for me.”

What would cause travelers to return? One place to start is by unplugging the scanners, says Rachel Kingman, a hotel manager from Hartford, Conn.

“I am going to fly less and drive and use mass transit more,” she says. “My local airport has the body scanners and I am not going to fly unless absolutly necessary until they are gone. I have the right to choose who sees me naked and I refuse to allow a random person to molest me just for the convenience of flying.”

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  • Frank

    Driving, on the other hand, had the highest positive ratings of any mode of transport. Nearly 40 percent of respondents said they planned to travel more by car next year. Again, a majority (49 percent) answered “about the same.”
    ==================================================

    Really? The cost of unleaded gas in New York City is $3.33 a gallon.
    Luckily, I drive to work once a week. And, still feel the pinch of high prices. I shake my head at paying $40.00 to fill my tank. Do the math, cost of gas and mileage to your destination versus your AIRFARE. You may be surprised.

  • http://www.insurancefortrips.com Kina

    Amen to that! We sell a trip insurance plan with a cancel for any reason benefit, and a few weeks ago I began getting calls from people who wanted to cancel their trips due to TSA screening procedures. First it was one or 2 a day, then 5, then 10 a day.
    The people are speaking, and hopefully the powers that be will finally start listening.

  • Hapgood

    I wonder how many people the TSA has (indirectly) killed in auto accidents after deciding they would rather drive than allow the TSA to treat them like convicted felons? That’s surely one statistic the Homeland Security Department is not compiling, although the number is definitely greater than the number of lives TSA screening has saved (i.e., zero).

    Driving is significantly more dangerous than flying, and the risk of death in a terrorist attack is effectively zero compared to the risk of dying on the highway. But people choose the much more dangerous form of transportation to avoid what the TSA insists is nothing more than a very minor inconvenience. But in general people do a very poor job of assessing risk, which is why so many people are willing to accept whatever intrusive measures the TSA decides to inflict.

    And Kina, I doubt the powers that be have any interest in listening to us. They regard the public as enemies who are to be treated like convicted felons. So if the TSA deters increasing numbers of enemies from flying, that’s a significant success worth crowing about. Ideally, the only people who should fly are those who are grateful and appreciative of the fine work the front-line heroes do to keep aviation safe and secure.

  • Jeff L

    I see articles like this all the time, but in general they are irrelevant. Other than some tourist destinations, the majority of people in the air at any given time to any given city are on the road for business, where not flying is not usually an option.

    For the most part, the airlines would be just fine with the low fare leisure travelers not using them as opposed to last minute business travelers.

    Show me an article with credible (not anecdotal) evidence that businesspeople are flying less due to the new regs and I’ll see more of a potential impact.

  • Frank

    Driving is significantly more dangerous than flying, and the risk of death in a terrorist attack is effectively zero compared to the risk of dying on the highway.
    ==========================================

    tell that to these souls!

    GO TO FACEBOOK and type in “Never Forget 9/11″ and watch the video.
    It has a United States FLAG in the background.

    Never Forget 9/11
    Page 231,192 people like this..

  • DaveS

    As completely tragic as 9/11 was, as many Americans die EVERY MONTH in the U.S. in road accidents, one every 13 minutes. Yet we pretty much shrug it off as a couple of paragraphs on page 22 because it so commonplace to us and happens to one or a small number at a time. If it can be proven that people switch to driving rather than flying because of the TSA – I think it’s true but anecdotal evidence such as this article doesn’t count – then it is possible to estimate very closely how many deaths the TSA is creating, and evaluate whether what it is doing is really a positive or negative when it comes to saving lives.

  • BJ

    Obviously less people are flying as a percentage of population than in the past. And the airlines have fewer flights. That’s a fact Jack!

  • Hapgood

    Indeed, Frank, we must never forget 9/11.

    But we also must never let our leaders use 9/11 and its victims to justify the destruction of what America stands for, in the name of illusory security. The Flag should not symbolize queues of Americans standing shoeless waiting for federal officers to irradiate them and pat them down like convicted felons. But that indeed seems to be the defining iconic symbol of America in the 21st century. The most unfortunate thing is that many people, including you, apparently are perfectly comfortable with this New America.

    It may be even more unfortunate that we have allowed a handful of Islamist thugs (not all of whom were successful in carrying out their plots) to transform our once great nation from “the land of the free and the home of the brave” into a herd of cowering sheep eager to surrender formerly-cherished liberty to officials who utter sweet promises of “security” and insist that we trust them blindly.

    That seems to be what the Flag now stands for.

  • B.J.

    If I chose to fly it would be FREE due to retirement benefits BUT not even FREE flying will entice me to enter security at an American airport.
    I get upset just thinking about what I would have to endure.

    I imagine some people can’t understand how I feel but those who still
    know what FREEDOM is can..
    Security is possible and in effect by other Countries without the violations that are present in the U.S.

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  • Tanks75

    As an ex-boeing employee, I hate to say this, but I’m done flying unless I absolutely have to.  The people hired for TSA are terrible.  Where do they get these people?

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