GENEVA — New public opinion research released yesterday by IATA provides the clearest picture yet of traveller concerns when it comes to airports and air travel in the wake of COVID-19.
More than half (58%) of those surveyed said that they have avoided air travel post-pandemic, and 33% say they will avoid travel in future in an effort to reduce the risk of COVID-19 exposure.
At the airport, the top three concerns are: being in a crowded bus/train on the way to the aircraft (59%); lining up at check-in/security/border control or boarding (42%); and using airport restrooms/toilet facilities (38%).
Onboard the aircraft, the top three concerns are: sitting next to someone who might be infected (65%); using restrooms/toilet facilities (42%); and breathing the air on the plane (37%).
Asked for the top three measures that would make them feel safer, 37% of respondents said COVID-19 screening at departure airports, 34% said mandatory wearing of facemasks and 33% said social distancing measures on aircraft.
Respondents were also asked what they would do themselves to help keep the flight experience safe. In order, they said: undergoing temperature checks (43%); wearing a mask during travel (42%); checking-in online to minimize interactions at the airport (40%); taking a COVID-19 test prior to travel (39%) and sanitizing their seating area (38%).
Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director General and CEO, says: “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). These include mask-wearing, the introduction of contactless technology in travel processes and screening measures. 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.”
The survey also indicated a drop in the number of travellers willing to return to travel within a few months of the pandemic subsiding. Some 45% said they would, but that’s down from 61% in the previous survey.
This June poll is the third installment of IATA’s survey series, with two other polls conducted at the end of February and the beginning of April. All those surveyed had taken at least one flight since July 2019. Travellers were surveyed in 11 countries.
A majority of respondents said they 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.
However 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, both at home and on a global scale.
“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.
Some 85% of travellers reported concern for being quarantined while travelling.
De Juniac called mandatory quarantine “a demand killer”, adding that by keeping borders closed, countries are prolonging the pain by causing economic hardship well beyond airlines.
“If governments want to re-start their tourism sectors, alternative risk-based measures are needed,” said de Juniac. Many are built into the ICAO Take-off guidelines, like health screening before departure to discourage symptomatic people from traveling. Airlines are helping this effort with flexible rebooking policies. In these last days we have seen the UK and the EU announce risk-based calculations for opening their borders. And other countries have chosen testing options. Where there is a will to open up, there are ways to do it responsibly.”