Wichita State News

Podcast: Airline Quality Rating holiday travel forecast

Thursday, October 04, 2012

This WSU Newsline Podcast is available at http://www.wichita.edu/newslinepodcast. See the transcript below:

You’re listening to the podcast edition of the Wichita State University audio newsline. Learn more about WSU on the Web at wichita.edu.

Air travel during the holiday season can be a challenge. Mix traditionally high passenger volumes with uncertain weather and higher ticket prices, and it’s no wonder that the spirit of the season can turn into frustration.

Dean Headley
Dean Headley
But Dean Headley, co-author of the national Airline Quality Rating from Wichita State University, says there’s reason for cautious optimism this holiday season for air travelers.

Headley: “There is some reason for hope in holiday travel in that in 2011 the actual fall season and holiday season was better performing than actually the summer. So that’s a little counter to what it usually is.”

Of course, Headley says the normal concerns about traveling during the holidays are still present.

Headley: “Travel concerns during the holiday are kind of a normal, regular list. There’s weather, there’s a higher traffic volume that presents problems and complexity for the system. And just the hustle and bustle of everybody has to be somewhere on a certain time, that’s just normal stuff.”

That’s not to say that there aren’t some steps travelers can take to improve their chances for a good holiday traveling experience, as Headley explains.

Headley: “One travel trick that people could use is to make sure that they book with a little more time in each one of their connections. And instead of booking early or late, book on the day of the holiday. Typically there’s a light volume on those days.”

Headley says the ever changing landscape of airline travel, particularly airline mergers, can sometimes lead to an increase in consumer complaints.

Headley: “In the past we’ve had a lot of combining of airlines and, typically when those two large carriers combine, complaints go up, and we’ve seen that again with United and Continental. Right now, United is carrying the highest volume of complaints of any airline, and that’s a combined airline. We don’t know yet about how Southwest and AirTran are going to turn out. They’re still working on it.”

Although the cost of flying during the holidays is often higher, Headley says there are some deals to be found.

Headley: “Because of the higher demand, costs generally go up during the holiday season. It’s a supply and demand thing. But there are some ways that you can be creative if you would. Maybe add a little driving at the end, go to a larger market, not necessarily fly from the small market. Drive to a large market to start with. You just have to be creative about how you’re willing to trade price for time.”

Holiday air travel is challenging in itself, but it can be even more so for infrequent fliers. Headley offers some reminders.

Headley: “The infrequent flier still needs to be aware that there are hassles at the security line. Some of that’s eased, but not much. You need to be aware of the fees. Check all fees ahead of time. Bags cost. Most airlines will charge you for bags, preferred seating, preferred boarding. There are fees on practically everything now. The infrequent flier may not be aware of all that. They need to check ahead of time.”

According to Headley, ticket prices may appear to be reasonable to slightly higher, but when the fees hit you, you truly feel that the overall cost of travel has gone up. Maybe a year ago the average price was $350, but with $75 in fees, that ticket seems noticeably more expensive. When the travel involves tickets and fees for the parents and children, the costs add up quickly. At some point, Headley says, consumers will simply say that the holiday visit is not worth the price and the hassle.

Thanks for listening. Until next time, this is Joe Kleinsasser for Wichita State University.

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