As each passing week brings news of yet another air-travel public relations disaster to light, it's easy to forget that flying — for business or pleasure — has never been cheaper or safer.
The flying public may think the sun has set on the halcyon days of glamorous air travel forever — and when it comes to flying in perks-laden style, complete with free meals and complimentary checked bags, they may be right — but survey after survey shows that cost and safety, along with timeliness, are what really matters to consumers most.
Thanks to improvements in those areas, passenger satisfaction has reached all-time highs, according to J.D. Powers' 2017 North America Airline Satisfaction Study released in May, continuing a five-year upward trend. But overall satisfaction with fares and security hasn't kept many travelers from grumbling about the new rough-and-tumble reality of airplane cabins.
Taking the safety and affordability of today's airlines for granted, many passengers love to wax nostalgic about the way things used to be at 40,000 feet. And they're right: Today's lowest airfares get you ever less, apart from a safe and (usually) speedy trip.
For example, the latest "Basic Economy" fares from the Big Three U.S. carriers — American, Delta and United — limit carry-on items and restrict seat assignments and schedules, to varying degrees. Want to check a bag, eat something or sit in a better seat? You'd better prepare to pay up. Count yourself lucky if on most flights you're tossed a bag of peanuts — sorry, make that pretzels, packaged in a nut-free factory.
(Don't think what happens in the main cabin matters to business travelers? Well, then you haven't traveled on business recently — many employers require economy-fare travel, at least on domestic trips — or you have a really generous boss.)