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Poll: Mechanical failure top concern of airline travelers

July 23, 1996
Web posted at: 11:00 a.m. EDT

ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) -- In the wake of the explosion of TWA Flight 800 last week -- and the possibility the Boeing 747 may have been downed by a bomb -- a majority of airline travelers are more concerned about mechanical failure than terrorist attacks.

A CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll reveals that 68 percent of all Americans have some confidence that jetliners are safe from such attacks, though only 17 percent said they have a great deal of confidence in the airlines' ability to protect their passengers.

But 80 percent of airline passengers said they were more worried about aircraft mechanical problems, and 87 percent said that more extensive mechanical inspections would be worth additional costs and inconvenience to fly, according to the poll. Seventy-eight percent said they wouldn't mind paying more and being delayed by more careful inspection of passengers and their baggage.

But the poll revealed that 71 percent were at least somewhat confident that airplanes are structurally sound and properly maintained.

Airline travelers more worried about

Mechanical problems   80%
Terrorist attack   11%

Sampling error: +/- 4% pts

A slight majority of the public believes that terrorists will strike at the Olympics in Atlanta, with 51 percent calling the possibility likely, while 46 percent said it was unlikely. The poll said that 39 percent are worried that they or a family member would be a victim of a terrorist attack.

The crash of the TWA Boeing 747 apparently had less impact on the public's perception of TWA than the crash of ValuJet Flight 592 in May had on the low-cost airline. Immediately following that crash into the Florida Everglades -- all 110 people aboard the aircraft were killed -- 46 percent of airline travelers told poll-takers the crash made them less likely to use ValuJet.

Terrorist attack at the Olympics

Very likely   13%
Somewhat likely   38%
Somewhat unlikely   28%
Very unlikely  18%

Sampling error: +/- 5% pts

You or family members will be victim of terrorist attack

Worried   39%
Not worried   61%

Sampling error: +/- 5% pts

The most recent poll showed that only 17 percent of airline travelers were less likely to fly TWA.

But airline travel in general may have been more affected by the TWA crash -- this weekend's poll showed that 20 percent of travelers were less likely to fly a major airline. After the ValuJet crash, the number was 11 percent.

Interviews with 1,010 adult Americans, including 849 people who have flown on a commercial airline at least once in their lives, were conducted for the poll July 18-21.

Airline travelers less
likely to fly TWA

Yes 17%
No 79%

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