NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Shunning Airports, Commuters Take to The Road for Short Hops

August 16, 2002

As security procedures add to the time spent at airports and the frustrations of flying, many business commuters are choosing to drive to their destinations if the distance is only 200-300 miles. Such decisions are taking their toll on airlines that specialize in short-hop routes.

For example, the driving time for the 216-mile trip from Dallas/Ft. Worth to Austin is about four hours. But although the flying time is only an hour, more or less, so many would-be fliers have taken to their cars that airlines making the trip have eliminated 27 percent of their seats.

  • Overall, airlines have cut their seats on flights under 200 miles by 15 percent since a year ago -- compared to an 8 percent cut in domestic seats.
  • Other routes hard hit by the switch are Los Angeles-San Diego; Portland, Ore.-Seattle; Atlanta-Columbia, S.C.; and Pittsburgh-Cleveland.
  • Companies often let their traveling employees decide whether to fly or drive, and three out of four corporate travel managers say they are seeing some employees substitute driving for flying.
  • About 15 percent say the crossover has been substantial, according to a Business Travel Coalition survey last spring.

America West's short-haul flying is down 21%, United is off 32%, American 19% and Continental 20%. Those figures include commuter affiliates, whose turboprops often make them better suited for short-distance flying. They have cut their schedules dramatically.

The switch has boosted several travel-related industries, including rental-car companies, hotel chains and even bus companies.

Source: Chris Woodyard, "More U.S. Travelers Choose Cars Over Jets," USA Today, August 16, 2002.

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