The State of the American Traveler in August 2022—Air Service Challenges, Financial Anxieties

Air travel woes and service shortages are providing some reasons for Americans not to increase their travel, but not more so than looming financial concerns.

IMPORTANT: These findings are brought to you from our independent research, which is not sponsored, conducted or influenced by any advertising or marketing agency. The key findings presented below represent data from over 4,000 American travelers collected in July 2022.

Read below for a summary of the key findings from the latest The State of the American Traveler report.

Compounded Impact of Crowds, Air Service Issues & Labor Shortages with the Looming Economic Situation

If you haven’t heard—or experienced firsthand—a lot of people are traveling this summer. In fact, over half of American travelers report having taken at least one trip in the last month alone. Unfortunately, travel industry businesses’ ability to staff has not rebounded to meet the level of demand. Thus, over 40% of recent travelers report experiencing a service issue on their last trip—from poor service specifically due to staffing shortages, to overcrowding and price-gouging. An identical proportion agree that it seemed like businesses in the travel industry were having trouble providing adequate service to travelers on their most recent trip—similar to where we were in the Summer of 2021.

One area that the media has particularly focused its attention on is air service. About a third of those we surveyed who traveled by commercial airline in the past month reported experiencing a flight delay, and 14% reported they experienced a flight cancellation. Among all American travelers, 75% said they were aware of current issues with the U.S. air travel system, such as flight cancellations, delays and long security lines. Among those who were aware of these issues, 30% agreed that specifically due to this situation, they have decided not to travel by air this summer. However, thankfully 38% said these issues have not deterred them from air travel this season.

What’s more substantive in American travelers’ minds is financial-related. When asked what has deterred them from traveling more than they would have otherwise preferred in the past 6 months, the top reasons are gas is too expensive (47%), the general cost of travel being too expensive right now (39%), personal financial reasons (31%) and airfare is too expensive (27%). (In comparison, COVID concern is the fifth most commonly reported travel deterrent, with 24.5% saying the risk of contracting COVID kept them from traveling more.) Additionally, the proportion of travelers who feel that the present is a good time to spend money on travel has dropped to 28%, the lowest level recorded so far this year. Overall, American travelers’ optimism about the financial future is dimming somewhat, as the proportion of travelers who feel they will be financially better off next year compared to this year has declined 4-points in the last month to 39%.

How is all of this impacting sentiment towards travel? There is some notable strain: the percent of American travelers who say that travel will be a high budget priority has declined 6-points in the past month to 56%—the lowest it has been in 6 months. Expected annual travel budgets dropped to $3,597 from $4,345 last month—this is the lowest reported since October 2021. The percent of American travelers who say they currently have no trips planned has also crept up 6-points in the last month to 24%. Nevertheless, there are positive signs for travel sustaining. When asked to think about the economics of their most recent trip, 71% of Americans who took a trip in the past month agreed they were satisfied with the overall value for the money they received from their travel expenditures. While optimism about even greater travel volume and spending in the next year may be waning, nearly half of American travelers say they expect to travel the same amount—and spend the same amount on travel—next year as they did this year. Although the degree of excitement has come down somewhat, still 76% of American travelers express high levels of enthusiasm about travel in the next year. As such, more than 75% have done some travel dreaming and planning in the last week alone.

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