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Fear of Flying

November 9, 2006
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Instead of making travelers feel safer, tighter security at airports is making Americans less inclined to travel because of the perception of the ongoing threat of terrorism and increased inconvenience, according to a new survey by Synovate, a market-research firm.

Synovate recently surveyed 1,481 travelers around the world who have traveled by plane in the past year to get their thoughts on the existing air-travel security restrictions and the threat of terrorism.

Regardless of tighter security measures in place at many airports around the world, almost half of travelers surveyed across all markets believe that a terrorist act will take place on an aircraft some time in the near future. This feeling was strongest in the United Kingdom (67 percent) and in the United States (56 percent).

"With the recent fifth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, it's not surprising that travelers are still nervous," said Sheri Lambert, senior vice president of Synovate's Travel & Leisure group.

"No matter how tight airport security gets, the idea that planes could potentially be used for terrorist attacks is now firmly planted in everyone's minds," she continued. "The reality is that 9/11 has changed the way we travel for the rest of our lives."

Though travelers indicate strong concern about terrorism, the additional security measures, rather than easing their concerns, have had the opposite effect of making them less inclined to travel. Some 22 percent of American travelers said that tighter security restrictions will deter them from traveling internationally. Surprisingly, only 15 percent of respondents in the United Kingdom -- which typically has very stringent security requirements and was the center of a thwarted terror plot in August -- indicated that tighter security would deter their international travel, showing that it's mostly business as usual for them.

Nineteen percent of American air travelers also said that additional security requirements would deter them from traveling by plane for leisure, and 9 percent indicated that they were less likely to travel by plane for business. Forty-one percent of Americans surveyed indicated that they have traveled by air (for business or pleasure) at least once in the past 12 months.

Despite ongoing concerns about terrorism and the inconvenience of the security restrictions at many airports, most of the world's travelers -- except for Americans -- still think that flying is an attractive means of transportation.

Half of the Americans surveyed indicated that flying is less appealing than it used to be, but only one-third of respondents across the globe feel this way.

Interestingly, 31 percent of travelers surveyed in all markets indicated that the "no-liquids on board" requirement -- since revised, as of Sept. 26, to reflect new safety regulations -- was "just too much to ask."

"Frustration with any new or changing security requirements is high among some consumers, but this is still a new way for people to travel," said Lambert. "Like all new regulations put into place, travelers will eventually get used to them. However, consistency from airport to airport is critical. If the security measures are consistent, then passengers' comfort with the new measures will increase as well."

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