Poll: 90% of Frequent Flyers Give TSA Fair or Poor Rating

By Dan Collins on 10 September 2012
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An overwhelming majority of frequent flyers, 90.8%, thinks that the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is doing either a fair or poor job of managing security screenings at the nation’s airports.

The findings are from a survey conducted by Frequent Business Traveler from August 10 to August 31, 2012, in partnership with FlyerTalk, an online travel community. A total of 1,852 frequent travelers took part in the survey.  The responses indicate that the typical American frequent flyer holds the TSA in fairly low regard and has a similar lack of confidence in the TSA’s overall effectiveness. 76.1% are of the opinion that the TSA’s screening procedures are either not effective or not too effective at preventing acts of terrorism on an aircraft.

The TSA has come under harsh scrutiny in recent years, with criticism escalating to a point where some airports are privatizing security checkpoints and members of congress are calling for the agency to be disbanded.  But given that the TSA has done much in trying to improve the screening process, including the introduction of the PreCheck trusted traveler program and less intrusive screenings for children and senior citizens, its image certainly must be improving. Or is it?

“For frequent flyers, airport security and the TSA in particular stand between their lives and their next destinations,” said Frequent Business Traveler editorial director Jonathan Spira, who designed the survey. “Those who travel are often subjected to not only a high number of TSA screening procedures, but also interact with the TSA in a wide variety of airports and cities.”

Frequent Business Traveler’s findings contrast greatly with a recent Gallup poll which reported that most Americans’ (54%) views of the TSA were positive rather than negative; however, 48% of the 1,014 respondents had not flown in the past year, and only 12% had flown five or more times during that period.  (Detailed results of the survey may be found on page 2 of this article.)

On average, a Frequent Business Traveler survey respondent made 6.2 personal trips in the past year and 10.1 business trips in the same period, a total of 16.3 trips (and a minimum of 32.6 flights).  Gallup’s average survey respondent, on the other hand, made only 2.1 trips per year.

The difference in travel frequency among the survey takers shows that the Frequent Business Traveler respondents had far greater exposure in transiting TSA security checkpoints compared to Gallup’s, and are therefore far more qualified to make such judgments.

The Frequent Business Traveler respondents are highly educated.  Indeed, 47.7% completed college, 31.9% earned a masters degree, and 17.4% have a Ph.D.  While this pool is not at all reflective of American society as a whole, it is reflective of a population that travels frequently and has far more experience in dealing with TSA checkpoints than the casual flier.  Underscoring that, 96.5% of respondents belong to at least one frequent flyer program.

With respect to overall satisfaction with their last TSA security experience, 56.4% stated they were not satisfied.  A smaller number, 18.5%, said they were either satisfied, very satisfied, or extremely satisfied with that experience.

Frequent flyers want to get through security quickly and 26.3% of Frequent Business Traveler’s respondents reported that they had used the TSA PreCheck trusted traveler program’s dedicated security lanes.  Flyers who meet TSA criteria for the program pass through these checkpoints without having to remove their jackets or shoes or empty liquids or computers from carry-on luggage. The overall impression of the TSA on the part of the 488 respondents who have used PreCheck mirrored that of those who had never used PreCheck, indicating that the expedited screening and trusted traveler program, which includes frequent flyers invited by participating airlines, did not improve nor diminish their view of the TSA.  However, the majority of PreCheck users, 72.9%, were either satisfied, very satisfied, or extremely satisfied with the PreCheck program.

Click here to continue to Page 2Detailed Survey Results

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