Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Opinion Poll Trumps Facts Once Again? The U.S. Travel Association's New Survey

Have you been on an airplane lately?

I have. A number of them actually. And no matter what the carrier or destination, the flights I've been on have been full. Overly full actually; it seems like each time I've taken off, would-be stand-by travelers have been left disappointed at the gate.

The stats bear out my observations. Looking at the past summer, airlines flew with an average of 89% percent of their seats filled--the highest numbers, actually, since these sorts of numbers started being recorded. Autumn and winter flights have been nearly as crowded.

Yet according to the US Travel Association, the act of having to take off one's shoes before going through security is so angering would-be passengers that they haven't been traveling as much as they could. Apparently, shoe removal was the biggest source of anger among the traveling public, beyond any ire inspired by going through a scanner or removing a pat-down.

The USTA wants to appear before Congress with the results of this study, and ask for help, as they believe security regulations are hurting the travel industry and, by extension, the US economy.

Really? Really?! My question to them: on what planes would these folks have flown? Because the ones that are up in the sky couldn't accommodate all these extra folks with shoe anxieties. And wouldn't the detonation of explosives aboard an airline hurt the travel industry far, far more than any regulation the TSA could concoct?

I'm not arguing that travel is NOT down. It obviously is (just look at hotel occupancy numbers). But the reason for that is just as obvious: its the economy, stupid. Until people get back to work and/or feel secure in their jobs, we're not going to see the numbers of travelers that we did in the free-spending decade we just lived through.

This seems like another case of an opinion poll trumping the facts, a problem in our opinion-obsessed society. Let's look at what actually is happening (not only in travel, but in politics) rather than what folks thinks is happening.

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