In contrast to opinions and perceptions reported in the past, a majority of women business travelers currently believe the airline industry treats them equally as well as their male counterparts. The data was gathered as part of a new survey conducted by the American Small Business Travelers Alliance (ASBTA), a national alliance that provides valuable services and functions focused specifically on the travel needs and interests of small business owners.
Of the female business travelers surveyed, 54 percent responded that they are treated the same as men when traveling. Slightly less (52 percent) believe they are treated as valuable customers by the airlines. Respondents indicated that three airlines websites do the best at catering to their needs. American Airlines (22 percent) was ranked first, followed by Delta (21 percent), with Southwest (19 percent) coming in third. April 2007, American Airlines introduced the airline industry’s first web page dedicated to women who travel (www.AA.com/Women).
The survey also revealed that women increasingly prefer to utilize the internet for air travel needs. Significantly, in the past twelve months, 85 percent of respondents used the internet to book travel with 78 percent booking directly through airline websites. Finally, women are taking advantage of the improvements made by airlines websites. They find it easier to research air travel (78 percent) and purchase air travel (84 percent) than in the past.
“It’s not a matter of treating women better than men, in the air or anywhere else,” said frequent traveler Susan B. Shapiro, president of OnPoint Coaching, Inc. “Rather, women traveling on business have a unique set of needs and preferences, and airlines are discovering that it is time to adapt their services to this growing group.”
Four key areas ranked as the most important to female business travelers. Services/amenities and cleanliness of lavatories ranked first at 96 percent each, followed closely by responsiveness to needs at 94 percent. Only slightly less important to female business travelers are loyalty programs (89 percent).
Further reinforcing the importance of these areas, 57 percent of respondents indicated they would like a women-only lavatory on planes, while 60 percent are willing to pay a slightly higher premium for services that add convenience to their journey. Surprisingly, 89 percent of women indicated they were neutral to or not interested in a women’s-only section on flights, in contrast to the acceptance of that particular trend in the hotel industry.
According to the 2002 TIA/BTS Air Travel Survey, 51 percent of all travelers are women. “ASBTA survey results reflected that 73 percent of female business travelers traveled the same or more in 2007 compared to 2006,” said Chuck Sharp, ASBTA president. “From our vantage point, female travelers are clearly a growing segment that will help shape the travel industry. Given our survey results and the recent response of airlines in catering to the needs of female business travelers, we are certain this trend will continue.”
Conducted during August and September of 2007, ASBTA surveyed over 1000 female travelers on topics that included internet usage, safety, loyalty programs, and technology.