Reducing Travel Hassles


More than 99 percent of all long-haul trips to and within the U.S. depend on our nation’s network of highways, airports and passenger rail. If current trends continue, an average day of travel in the U.S. will feel like Labor Day on the roads and Thanksgiving in the skies. Travel to and within the U.S. will be stifled without federal support to modernize our nation’s infrastructure across all modes of transportation, including highways, transit and passenger rail.

U.S. Infrastructure Receives a “D Grade”: It is well documented that U.S. aviation infrastructure is woefully inadequate, shockingly antiquated and dangerously underfunded. In its 2013 report, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) gave U.S. aviation infrastructure a “D” grade and estimated that the costs attributable to airport congestion was almost $22 billion in 2012. Moreover, according to a 2008 study by the U.S. Travel Association, the frustration with the travel process caused people to avoid 41 million trips that year – at a cost of $26.5 billion to the nation’s economy.

Unfortunately, these problems are projected to get worse. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) predicts that over the next decade the number of U.S. air passengers per year will increase by 50 percent – from about 730 million in 2011 to 1.2 billion passengers per year by 2022. Also during the next decade, an estimated two billion people will be able to afford international travel – most of them from the rising economies of China, India, Brazil and Russia.

Thanksgiving in the Skies Report: In the next five years, 24 of the top 30 airports will experience congestion similar to the Wednesday before Thanksgiving at least one day per week. The FAA predicts that 27 airports

in 15 metropolitan areas will need additional capacity by 2025. By 2016, the U.S. economy will lose $6 billion annually in travel spending because of capacity constraints – growing to $46 billion annually by 2034. Investments to reduce airport congestion, increase capacity and spur airline competition have slowed because of Congressional caps on local airport investments.

American’s aviation infrastructure is simply not equipped to handle the projected increases in domestic and international travelers. Without significant upgrades, expansions and investments, the current state of our infrastructure will severely limit the travel industry’s financial growth and stifle America’s global competitiveness. View the rest of the Thanksgiving in the Skies Report.Thanksgiving In The Skies

Outdated Air Traffic Control System: The U.S. air traffic control system uses technology from the WWII era that causes systemic delays and cancellations. The FAA is in the process of implementing a new, satellite-based air traffic control syste, called NextGen, which could increase system capacity by one-third, improve fuel efficiency, reduce cancellations and decrease flight times. However, the roll out of NextGen remains mired by delays cost overruns and uncertainties in funding.


The ASCE say that an additional annual sum of $4.3 billion from 2012 to 2020 will need to be identified to have NextGen completed by 2025. To meet projected increases in domestic and international travel, the FAA found that specifically 14 airports in 10 metropolitan areas will need additional capacity by 2025 beyond what is already planned for NextGen. Prominent aviation experts believe that airports cannot make these necessary investments – and traveler growth will be limited – without new and sustainable funding sources from the federal government or the private sector. Congress must pass an FAA reauthorization that prioritizes implementation of NextGen and accelerates airport modernization through local user fees (called passenger facility charges).

Inefficient Access to Airports: Congested roadways and inadequate transit services prevent efficient access to U.S. airports and limit travel growth from key U.S. markets. In 2009, only 35 percent of commercial airports were serviced by public transportation and less than half of the 50 largest U.S. airports were connected to passenger rail. Small communities continue to lose air service and major hubs are forced to handle the bulk of increased passenger loads. Substantial infrastructure investments will be needed to increase capacity and improve intermodal access to U.S. airports. Forty-five percent of major urban highways are congested, which means by 2030, 11 urban areas will experience traffic levels comparable to or worse than Los Angeles – currently the most congested city in the country.

Outdated Surface Transportation: Congested highways discourage travel. Within 10 years, major interstate corridors will experience average daily congestion equal to Labor Day levels of traffic. According to a 2013 survey, 38 percent of travelers would avoid at least one-to-five trips per year if congestion grows at its current pace. If travelers avoided just one auto trip per year, the U.S. economy would lose $23 billion in spending that would directly support 208,000 American jobs.

Investments in transit and passenger rail support faster economic growth. Transit and passenger rail investments improve efficient access to cities, hotels, attractions, and other travel businesses. For example, cities with transit rail connections from the airport to the city center saw hotel revenue and occupancy rates grow roughly 20 percent faster than those cities without transit rail connections. Congress must pass a federal surface transportation reauthorization that includes sufficient funding to modernize our transportation systems and support growth in travel.


The Transportation Security Administration's (TSA) inefficient and inconsistent passenger screening process is discouraging air travel and negatively impacting travel.  A 2010 U.S. Travel survey found that travelers would take two to three more flights per year if the hassles in security screening were reduced. These additional flights would add nearly $85 billion in consumer spending back into the economy.

The Creation of PreCheck: In 2010, U.S. Travel released a report titled “A Better Way,” which urged TSA to create a trusted traveler program. In May 2011, after intensive lobbying from the travel industry, TSA 


launched a trusted traveler pilot program called PreCheck that provides expedited screening for passengers willing to volunteer more personal information. Today, PreCheck is available at 115 airports across the country. 

Although more than 30 million passengers have gone through PreCheck, several barriers continue to prevent more Americans from enrolling. Travelers must either join CBP’s Global Entry program, which requires an in-person interview or qualify through an airline frequent flier program, which is estimated to cost roughly $10,000 in airfare paid to a single airline, in a single year, in order to accrue enough frequent flier miles to qualify.

In a positive development, TSA announced in early 2013 that it would accept applications from private-sector companies to prescreen air passengers and enroll them in PreCheck. By making the PreCheck process more accessible to passengers, aviation security will become a faster and stronger process, which will spur more domestic travel and welcome more international visitors to the U.S. Visit CBP's Trusted Traveler page to learn more about these programs.

Increasing Customs and Border Staffing: Long delays and wait times at customs and entry points discourage inbound international travel to the United States, which limits economic 

growth and job creation. A chronic shortage of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) personnel results in excessive screening delays at America’s busiest international airports. Metrics should be established at airports to process 80 percent of passengers within 30 minutes at primary inspection and all travelers within 45 minutes under normal circumstances. The adoption of specific standards would significantly enhance the entry experience and promote additional international visitation. Congress should include customs and entry modernization measures in any comprehensive immigration reform proposal while continuing to ensure proper CBP staffing by developing wait time metrics for the air environment.