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Airline Trust Is Resilient Despite Investigation Into Close Call Incidents

A recent New York Times story on airline close calls hasn’t yet slowed growth in consumer trust in major U.S. carriers, writes travel & hospitality analyst Lindsey Roeschke
Share of U.S. adults who say they trust major U.S. airlines
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Morning Consult Brand Intelligence

August 31, 2023 at 5:00 am UTC

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Categorized under the ominous heading of “flight risks,” a recent investigative piece by The New York Times revealed that close calls among passenger airlines are happening at an alarming rate that was previously unknown to the public. Reader comments on the article described the findings as “terrifying,” “unbelievable” and a source of “crippling anxiety.” However, Morning Consult daily brand tracking shows that consumer trust in airlines didn’t dip in the aftermath of the report. In fact, trust has been trending up slightly since the beginning of 2023.

One possible reason is that, despite naming specific carriers in the article, the subject was the airline industry as a whole, and more specifically focused on understaffing and untenable schedules among air traffic controllers — the Federal Aviation Administration responded quickly, calling for runway safety meetings. As a result, trust in individual brands may not have been dented as much as if the investigation had honed in on a specific airline. 

Or, very possibly, despite the serious and concerning nature of the article, it didn’t break through to the average American: Around 3 in 10 U.S. adults said they had seen, heard or read something about airlines in the week directly after the piece, in line with shares before the article was published. To note, it was a busy news week with the downing of a jet carrying Vladimir Putin rival Yevgeny Prigozhin, the first Republican presidential primary debate and the arrest of former President Donald Trump, all major stories which drew attention in the news cycle and may have buried further coverage of the report.

No matter the reason, the lack of impact may be considered the airline industry’s own near-miss. Airlines have been slowly but surely re-establishing consumer trust — which is hard to build, and vital to protect brands in the case of missteps — since the beginning of 2023. The industry will need to keep the momentum moving in the right direction to encourage bookings going into the busy holiday season.

This memo utilizes data from Morning Consult Brand Intelligence, our flagship platform that every day asks thousands of consumers about core metrics for over 4,000 brands and products around the world. MCBI subscribers can further explore the data here. To learn more about MCBI, request a demo here.

A headshot photograph of Lindsey Roeschke
Lindsey Roeschke
Lead Travel & Hospitality Analyst

Lindsey Roeschke previously worked at Morning Consult as the lead travel & hospitality analyst.

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