Air Canada executive among Travel Again’s Policy Advisors

Six in 10 say they can see travel resuming 1-2 months after COVID-19 contained

GENEVA — A new consumer confidence survey suggests that six in 10 travellers can see themselves travelling again within one to two months after the coronavirus pandemic has been contained, however four in 10 say it could be six months or more before they consider travelling again, and seven in 10 say concerns about personal finances will also be a stumbling block.

The survey, commissioned by IATA, also highlights what’s happening in China and Australia as coronavirus cases there ease, as possible indicators of future post-COVID-19 traveller behaviour in other markets:

China: IATA says domestic demand began to recover when the rate of new COVID-19 infections in China fell into single digits and rapidly headed towards zero (measured by new infections as a percentage of the seven-day moving average of total COVID-19 cases). “While there was an early upswing from mid-February into the first week of March, the number of domestic flights plateaued at just over 40% of pre-COVID-19 levels. Actual demand is expected to be significantly weaker as load factors on these flights are reported to be low. China accounts for some 24% of all domestic passengers.”

Australia: In Australia, domestic demand continued to deteriorate even after the rate of new infections fell into single digits. IATA says there is still no sign of a recovery (total domestic flights are at 10% of pre-COVID-19 levels) even as new infections nears zero.

IATA is calling for governments to work with the industry on confidence-boosting measures in the face of an anticipated slow recovery in demand for travel, and specifically for IATA’s purposes, air travel.

“In some economies, the spread of COVID-19 has slowed to the point where governments are planning to lift the most severe elements of social distancing restrictions. But an immediate rebound from the catastrophic fall in passenger demand appears unlikely. People still want to travel. But they are telling us that they want clarity on the economic situation and will likely wait for at least a few months after any ‘all clear’ before returning to the skies. As countries lift restrictions, confidence boosting measures will be critical to re-start travel and stimulate economies,” said IATA’s Director General and CEO, Alexandre de Juniac.

De Juniac says domestic market behaviour is a critical indicator as the post-pandemic recovery is expected to be led by domestic travel, followed by regional and then intercontinental as governments progressively remove restrictions.

Starting this week IATA is conducting regional summits with governments and industry partners to begin planning for an eventual re-start of the air transport industry.

“The passenger business came to a halt with unilateral government actions to stop the spread of the virus. The industry re-start, however, must be built with trust and collaboration. And it must be guided by the best science we have available. Time is of the essence. We must start building a framework for a global approach that will give people the confidence that they need to travel once again. And, of course, this will need to be shored-up by economic stimulus measures to combat the impact of a recession,” said de Juniac.

“Passenger confidence will suffer a double whammy even after the pandemic is contained—hit by personal economic concerns in the face of a looming recession on top of lingering concerns about the safety of travel. Governments and industry must be quick and coordinated with confidence-boosting measures.”