BOSTON — Frustrations is mounting over COVID-19 travel restrictions, says IATA, which has released new survey results that show air travellers are ready to return to some sense of normalcy.
The survey, commissioned by IATA and sent to 4,700 respondents in 11 markets in September, found that 67% of respondents felt that most country borders should be opened now, up 12 percentage points from IATA’s previous June 2021 survey.
In addition, 64% felt that border closures are unnecessary and have not been effective in containing the virus, up 11 percentage points from June, while 73% said that their quality of life is suffering as a result of ongoing travel restrictions, up 6 percentage points from June.
“People are increasingly frustrated with the COVID-19 travel restrictions and even more have seen their quality of life suffer as a result,” said Willie Walsh, IATA’s Director General. “They don’t see the necessity of travel restrictions to control the virus. And they have missed too many family moments, personal development opportunities and business priorities.
“In short, they miss the freedom of flying and want it restored. The message they are sending to governments is: COVID-19 is not going to disappear so we must establish a way to manage its risks while living and travelling normally.”
The challenge with quarantines and vaccination mandates
According to IATA, the biggest deterrent to air travel continues to be quarantine measures. 84% of respondents indicated that they will not travel if there is a chance of quarantine at their destination. A growing proportion of respondents support the removal of quarantine if a person has tested negative for COVID-19 (73% in September compared to 67% in June), and if a person has been vaccinated (71% in September compared to 68% in June).
With vaccination rates increasing around the world, 80% of respondents agree that vaccinated people should be able to travel freely by air. However, there were strong views against making vaccination a condition for air travel. About two-thirds felt it is morally wrong to restrict travel only to those who have been vaccinated; over 80% of respondents believe that testing before air travel should be an alternative for people without access to vaccination.
Just yesterday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau confirmed that everyone 12 years old and older travelling on a plane or train within Canada will have to show proof of full COVID-19 vaccination. The new mandate comes into effect at the end of October.
While 85% of IATA’s survey respondent are willing to be tested if required to travel, 75% said that the cost of testing is a significant barrier to travel, while 80% believe that governments should bear the cost of testing.
“People are willing to be tested to travel. But they don’t like the cost or the inconvenience. Both can be addressed by governments,” added Walsh. “The reliability of rapid antigen tests is recognized by the World Health Organization (WHO). Broader acceptance of antigen testing by governments would reduce inconvenience and cost—costs that the WHO’s International Health Regulations stipulate should be borne by governments.”
There’s high confidence in COVID-19 safety measures
Among those who have travelled since June 2020, 86% felt safe onboard their flight, thanks to COVID-19 measures.
There is also strong support for wearing masks, with 87% of respondents agreeing that doing so will prevent the spread of COVID-19.
And while more markets are starting to reopen travel, 73% of those who’ve travelled since June 2020 found it challenging to understand what rules applied for a trip (up from 70% in June), and 73% felt that COVID-19 paperwork was challenging to arrange (also up from 70% in June).
“People want to travel. 86% expect to be traveling within six months of the crisis ending. With COVID-19 becoming endemic, vaccines being widely available and therapeutics improving rapidly, we are quickly approaching that point in time,” said Walsh. “People also tell us that they are confident to travel. But what those who have traveled are telling us is that the rules are too complex and the paperwork too onerous. To secure the recovery governments need to simplify processes, restore the freedom to travel and adopt digital solutions to issue and manage travel health credentials.”