More than 41 million flights in the United States were avoided by travelers over the last year due to hassles at airports and government security screening procedures, costing the U.S. economy about $26 billion, according to a survey released Thursday by the Travel Industry Association.
"Frustration with the air-travel process has hit a tipping point," said Roger Dow, president of the association, which advocates for and lobbies on behalf of the travel industry.
The survey of about 1,000 random participants found that 75 percent of travelers believe the air-travel system is either broken or in need of moderate correction.
The trade group is run by leading travel industry officials.
It estimates that the impact of avoided flights to the U.S. economy over the last year was $26.5 billion, including losses of $9.4 billion to the airlines, $5.6 billion to hotels, $3.1 billion to restaurants and $4.2 billion in federal, state and local taxes.
"Travelers avoided a staggering 41 million trips over the past year due to the hassles of flying," Dow said. "Our economy cannot afford what amounts to a $26 billion blow. This research should be a wake-up call to America's policy leaders that the time for meaningful air-system reform is now."
Nearly one third of travelers avoided at least one flight over the last year -- amounting to about 112,000 flights a day -- due to problems with the air travel process, which includes flight delays and security screening conducted by the Homeland Security Department, the survey concluded.
The association will likely use the survey to help bolster support for legislation in Congress to revamp the air-travel process. The Travel Promotion Act has the support of 43 senators and 207 House members, the group said. The bill would require Homeland Security to take a series of steps to improve traveler screening operations at the nation's top 20 airports. The bill would establish a nonprofit corporation to manage a national travel promotion program.
"The program would effectively communicate U.S. security policies, reverse negative perceptions about the U.S. travel experience and promote the United States as a premier travel destination," according to TIA. Companies in the travel industry would provide $100 million to the corporation, which would be matched by a government fund created by assessing a $10 fee on foreign travelers coming to the United States under a visa waiver program, allowing them to enter the country without a visa.
The fee would be collected by the Homeland Security Department. The association said it is optimistic the bill will pass Congress this year.