The International Air Transport Association (IATA) released public opinion research showing that the willingness to travel is being tempered by concerns over the risks of catching COVID-19 during air travel. The industry’s re-start plans address passenger’s main concerns.

Travellers are taking precautions to protect themselves from COVID-19, with 77% saying that they are washing their hands more frequently, 71% avoiding large meetings and 67% having worn a face mask in public. Some 58% of those surveyed said that they have avoided air travel and 33% suggesting that they will avoid travel in future, as a continued measure to reduce the risk of catching COVID-19.

Concerns for Travel During COVID-19

In a survey conducted across 11 countries, passengers identified three major concerns relating to COVID-19 at the airport and on-board aircraft.

At the AirportOn Board Aircraft
1. Being in a crowded bus/train on the way to the aircraft (59%)1. Sitting next to someone who might be infected (65%)
2. Queuing at check-in/security/border control or boarding (42%)2. Using restrooms/toilet facilities (42%)             
           
3.Using airport restrooms/toilet facilities (38%)   3. Breathing the air on the plane (37%)      

When asked to rank the top three measures that would make them feel safer, 37% cited COVID-19 screening at departure airports, 34% agreed with mandatory wearing of face masks and 33% noted social distancing measures on aircraft.

“People are clearly concerned about COVID-19 when travelling” said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s CEO, “But they are also reassured by the practical measures being introduced by governments and the industry”.

The survey also pointed to some key issues in restoring confidence, where the aviation industry needs to communicate the facts more effectively.

Passengers themselves displayed a willingness to play a role in keeping flying safe by:

  1. Undergoing temperature checks (43%)
  2. Wearing a mask during travel (42%)
  3. Checking-in online to minimise interactions at the airport (40%)
  4. Taking a COVID-19 test prior to travel (39%)
  5. Sanitising their seating area (38%).

Travellers have not made up their minds about cabin air quality. While 57% of travellers believed that air quality is dangerous, 55% also responded that they understood that it was as clean as the air in a hospital operating theatre.

No Quick Solution

While nearly half of those surveyed (45%) indicated the they would return to travel within a few months of the pandemic subsiding, this is a significant drop from the 61% recorded in the April survey. Overall, the survey results demonstrate that people have not lost their taste for travel; but there are blockers to returning to pre-crisis levels of travel:

  • A majority of travellers surveyed plan to return to travel to see family and friends (57%), to vacation (56%) or to do business (55%) as soon as possible after the pandemic subsides
  • 66% said that they would travel less for leisure and business in the post-pandemic world
  • 64% indicated that they would postpone travel until economic factors improved (personal and broader)

Overall, the survey results demonstrate that people have not lost their taste for travel.

“This crisis could have a very long shadow.”

Dr Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s CEO

“Passengers are telling us that it will take time before they return to their old travel habits. Many airlines are not planning for demand to return to 2019 levels until 2023 or 2024. Numerous governments have responded with financial lifelines and other relief measures at the height of the crisis.”

“As some parts of the world are starting the long road to recovery, it is critical that governments stay engaged. Continued relief measures like alleviation from use-it-or-lose it slot rules, reduced taxes or cost reduction measures will be critical for some time to come.”

Quarantine is a Demand Killer

One of the biggest blockers to an industry recovery is quarantine, IATA claims. Some 85% of travellers reported concerns for being quarantined while travelling, a similar level of concern to those reporting general concern for catching the virus when travelling (84%).

Among the measures that travellers were willing to take in adapting to travel during or after the pandemic, only 17% reported that they were will willing to undergo quarantine.

De Juniac said quarantine is a “demand killer”.

“Keeping borders closed prolongs the pain by causing economic hardship well beyond airlines. If governments want to re-start their tourism sectors, alternative risk-based measures are needed.”

Dr Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s CEO

Source and Data: IATA Press Release. Feature Image: LA Times

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