The International Air Transport Association (IATA) recently released research showing that the public’s willingness to travel is being tempered by concerns over the risks of catching the coronavirus (Covid-19) during air travel.
The 11-country survey, which was conducted during the first week of June 2020, assessed traveler concerns during the pandemic and the potential timelines for their return to travel.
According to the research, travelers identified the top three concerns at the airport and on board aircraft as follows:
At the airport
1. Being in a crowded bus/train on the way to the aircraft (59%)
2. Queuing at check-in/security/border control or boarding (42%)
3. Using airport restrooms/toilet facilities (38%)
On board aircraft
1. Sitting next to someone who might be infected (65%)
2. Using restrooms/toilet facilities (42%)
3. Breathing the air on the plane (37%)
“It is no secret that passengers have concerns about the risk of transmission onboard. They should be reassured by the many built-in anti-virus features of the air flow system and forward-facing seating arrangements,” said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director General and CEO.
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 facemasks and 33% noted social distancing measures on aircraft.
Passengers themselves displayed a willingness to play a role in keeping flying safe by undergoing temperature checks, wearing a mask during travel, checking-in online, taking a COVID-19 test prior to travel and sanitizing their seating area.
“People are clearly concerned about COVID-19 when traveling. But they are also reassured by the practical measures being introduced by governments and the industry under the Take-off guidance developed by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO)… This tells us that we are on the right track to restoring confidence in travel. But it will take time. To have maximum effect, it is critical that governments deploy these measures globally,” said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director General and CEO.
According to the research, travelers 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 facemask in public. Some 58% of those surveyed said that they have avoided air travel, with 33% suggesting that they will avoid travel in future as a continued measure to reduce the risk of catching the coronavirus.
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 IATA’s 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 travelers 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.
– But, 66% said that they would travel less for leisure and business in the post-pandemic world.
– And 64% indicated that they would postpone travel until economic factors improved (personal and broader).
“This crisis could have a very long shadow. 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,” said de Juniac.
One of the biggest blockers to industry recovery is quarantine. Some 85% of travelers reported concern for being quarantined while traveling, a similar level of concern to those reporting general concern for catching the virus when traveling (84%). And, among the measures that travelers were willing to take in adapting to travel during or after the pandemic, only 17% reported that they were will willing to undergo quarantine.