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Air Travel Consumer Dissatisfaction Grows When Personal Service Erodes

41 Million Trips Planned Avoided This Year

Waiting out an hour delay to take the red-eye from San Francisco to Boston on Sunday, there was no excitement or enthusiasm in the terminal – no one was looking forward to getting on their plane. Yes, all signs indicated that air travel was no longer a luxury affair, but rather a necessary annoyance, like a long bus ride, to get where you’re going.

OK, so it’s the red-eye – no one is ever excited for the red-eye. Well, it appears consumer dissatisfaction and apathy for the airline industry is deeper than that. A recent report from the Travel Industry Association (TIA) estimates that 41 million trips were avoided over the past twelve months at a cost of $26 billion to the U.S. economy. Adding a bit more perspective to this figure:

Roger Dow, President and CEO of TIA said “ . . .more than 100,000 travelers each day are voting with their wallets by choosing to avoid trips.”

We’ve written about airline travel on this blog before, because dissatisfaction with air travel has implications for the vacation rental industry. Less trips means less guests booking accommodations. Although the study did not highlight figures for the vacation rental industry, hotels lost an estimated $6 billion due to these avoided trips in the last twelve months.

Consumer Satisfaction – It’s Personal
Has the core offering of air travel changed that much? Sure, the seats are smaller and security is painful but the main transportation product is the same: fly where you need to go in relative safety. Instead, consumer dissatisfaction grows from the erosion of all the little service touches that made air travel unique. Personally, I miss the small bags of roasted peanuts (food always wins me over).

The personal nature of vacation rentals is the industry’s advantage. With a unique inventory of homes and a highly personal product offering (guests staying in someone’s home) that differentiates itself from other accommodations, vacation rentals capitalize on high consumer satisfaction (generally above 90%) to drive return guests and referrals. As vacation rentals continue to grow as a larger segment of the domestic travel industry, please don’t forget to sweat the small stuff and embrace the personal service touches that make vacation rentals a wonderful experience.