NEW YORK (BankingMyWay) – Flight delays are an enormous headache for travelers and for airlines, emotionally and financially.

A study from the University of California pegs the total cost of U.S. flight delays at $32.9 billion, with half the freight carried by already frustrated passengers.

The study calculates travelers lost $16.7 billion in 2007 from flight delays, mainly from lost time due to delays, cancellations and missed plane connections. Food and hotel bills also factored into that number.

Fed-up travelers have had enough with painful, draining delays and are issuing some demands to airlines in a report out on the topic by FlightView, a Boston-based travel information company.

The firm surveyed 2,600 airline passengers on travel delays, and the response was direct and aggressive – airlines, passengers say, really need to get their act together.

Among the leading complaints: 65% of travelers got “conflicting flight status information” from airlines during a delay and 40% cited the lack of “fast and accurate updates” on airliner departure times.

In addition, air travelers issued a list of demands airlines should meet if they expect to earn travel consumer’s loyalty, trust and business.

Here is a snapshot:

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  • 40% of travel consumers say they want free Wi-Fi while they wait out a delay.
  • 29% said their first priority was access to airline lounges during a delay.
  • 20% want digital displays available to show exactly where a delayed airplane is during a delay.

FlightView says accommodating those requests isn’t just humane, it’s also good business for airline companies.

“These are extremely reasonable requests – especially during delays and cancellations,” says Mike Benjamin, CEO of FlightView. “Airports and airlines that keep customers informed and connected see the greatest return in building long-term loyalty.”

“Travelers want to be in control of their experiences, and that begins with timely, accurate information,” he says.

The U.S government has tried to tackle the issue of airline flight delays, specifically when passengers are forced to wait inside a plane on the tarmac, but with mixed results.

In April 2010, the U.S. Department of Transportation issued regulations that fined airlines $27,500 per passenger for tarmac delays over three hours. To get around those rules, airlines simply issued delays before passengers boarded.

That led to better conditions for passengers, who could at least walk around the terminal (as long as they didn’t wander too far away from the boarding gate). But the regulations led to more delays, according to a study from Joshua Marks of Marks Aviation and Darryl Jenkins of The Airline Zone called Summer 2010 Cancellations and the Five-Month Impact of the Three-Hour Tarmac Rule.

That study found fight delays increased by 18% after the U.S. government regulations were issued, affecting 384,000 air travelers.