With the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic still present, it’s important to take stock of travelers concerns in order to better assist them moving forward and get them back to doing what they love.
According to a new research from the International Air Transport Association (IATA), 58% of those surveyed said that they have avoided air travel, with 33% suggesting that they will avoid travel in the future as a continued measure to reduce the risk of catching COVID-19. There are, however, key issues that can restore confidence.
Respondents identified their top concerns while at the airport, with 59% naming being in a crowded bus/train on the way to the aircraft, followed by queuing at check-in/security/border control or boarding (42%), and using airport restrooms/toilet facilities (38%).
Once onboard a plane, 65% of respondents said they were most worried about sitting next to someone who might be infected, while 42% said using restrooms/toilet facilities and 37% said breathing the air on the plane.
When asked to rank the top three measures that would make them feel safer, 37% of respondents cited COVID-19 screening at departure airports, 34% agreed with mandatory wearing of facemasks, and 33% noted social distancing measures on aircraft.
Passengers also said they would be willing to undergo temperature checks (43%), wear a mask during travel (42%), check-in online to minimize interactions at the airport (40%), take a COVID-19 test prior to travel (39%), and sanitizing their seating area (38%) in order to keep flying safe.
“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),” said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director General and CEO. “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.”
Communicating facts more effectively
While 57% of travelers believed that air quality is dangerous, 55% also responded that they understood that it was as clean as the air in a hospital.
Risk is reduced by screening our symptomatic travelers, and according to IATA, air is exchanged with fresh air from outside every two or three minutes on most aircrafts (compared to the air in most office buildings is exchanged 2-3 times per hour). Additionally, High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters capture well over 99.999% of germs, including the Coronavirus.
For those concerned about social distancing, IATA said that while passengers are sitting in close proximity on board, “the cabin air flow is from ceiling to floor. This limits the potential spread of viruses or germs backwards or forwards in the cabin. There are several other natural barriers to the transmission of the virus on board, including the forward orientation of passengers, limiting face-to-face interactions.”
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.
Fewer passengers are saying that they will travel again in the first months after the pandemic subsides. In early April 61% said that they would. By early June that fell to 45%.
About two-thirds are seeing less travel in their future—be it for vacation, visiting friends/relatives or business. 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.
“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,” said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director General and CEO.
“Passenger confidence will not be re-built overnight. We will need to keep reinforcing these messages as we move forward. But I am hopeful that, as people start to travel again, we will build up some momentum.”
The 11-country survey was conducted during the first week of June 2020.