Via The Consumerist, Americans are flying less because it's such a frustrating process, according to the Travel Industry Association. Detailed survey results are here (PDF).
Oddly enough they don't say anything about fuel costs, which I imagine has a much larger impact. For one, people are also driving less, and presumably this is not a reaction to the fact they're just sick and tired of having to fight their neighbor for the armrest.
For two, people have a greater tendency to grin and bear it when they're paying less for something (just ask any Southwest Airlines customer*). But when flights start costing more, whether on the ticket or by new-and-improved fees ("Now you want $15 to lose my bag, a service that used to be free?"), people expect a better experience, even if logically they know the cash is just getting pumped into the fuel tanks.
Perhaps I'm missing something. I haven't paid much attention to flight prices over the past year; I'm just guessing they've increased. (And if they haven't, that might explain why airlines can't get their stuff together enough to satisfy their customers.) Does anybody have solid data on this? Better, does anybody have solid data on how many people actually fly, not just what a consumer survey says?
*- I kid, but SWA flight attendants have been known to say during the pre-flight recitation, "Please do not tamper with the lavatory smoke detectors, as the penalty for disabling a smoke detector is up to $2000. And we know that if you had $2000, you'd be flying American."