Who has the worst fees in the travel industry? Here’s the surprise answer

Will the industry with the worst fees please stand up and take a bow?

You’re looking at the airlines, over in the corner, aren’t you? Granted, they come off as a little shady and they’re constantly making news for some insane new surcharge, like paying extra for confirmed seat assignments or to carry a bag on the plane.

I polled readers of this column – I’ll get to the answers in a moment – but let me offer a clue: It’s not the airlines. They’re bad, but they’re apparently not the worst. They’re not even number two.

Travelers say they’ll skip the airport and hit the road in 2011

How are you traveling in 2011?

In some ways, like you did this year. And in some ways not, according to a new survey.

Asked what mode of transportation they planned to use in 2011, most respondents indicated they would stay the course by cruising, driving, flying and using mass transport roughly the same as they did in 2010.

However, a significant number of travelers said they intended to fly less and drive more.

The poll of about 500 travelers, conducted last weekend by the Consumer Travel Alliance, suggests next year could be a busy one for motorists, while demand for air travel could weaken slightly.

Who had the worst customer service in 2010? (Hint: it wasn’t airlines)

The US airline industry, which has an unenviable record of failing practically every customer-service survey for the last generation, has a new rival: The Transportation Security Administration.

A new poll says the agency charged with protecting the nation’s transportation systems offered travelers the worst customer service in 2010. The survey, conducted last week by the Consumer Travel Alliance, found half of all travelers believed TSA offered the worst service, followed by airlines (29 percent), car rental companies (10 percent), hotels (5 percent), cruise lines (3 percent), online travel agencies and bricks-and-mortar agencies (roughly 1 percent each).

Travelers say they picked the federal screeners not because TSA’s service is universally bad, but because it is inconsistent.