REVEALED: What is stopping passengers from flying?

Published: 8 July 2020 - 3 a.m.
By: Aviation Business

Air passengers have specific concerns about being in busy airports and sitting next to someone on a plane who might be infected by Covid-19.

That is according to new research from the International Air Transport Association (IATA), showing the willingness to travel being tempered by concerns over the risks of catching Covid-19 during air travel.

In a survey conducted across 11 countries, passengers identified three top concerns at the airport and on-board aircraft.

Nearly 60% are concerned about being in a crowded bus on the way to the aircraft, 42% are worried about queuing at check-in and security and 38% are concerned over airport toilet facilities.

On-board aircraft, 65% are worried about sitting next to someone who might be infected, 42% concerned over toilet facilities and 37% worried about breathing the air on the plane.

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 Covid-19.

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 were also generally willing to play a role in keeping flying safe by undergoing temperature checks (43%), wearing a mask during travel (42%), checking-in online (40%) and taking a test prior to travel (39%).

“People are clearly concerned about COVID-19 when traveling,” said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s CEO. “But they are also reassured by the practical measures being introduced by governments and the industry.”

The survey also pointed to some key issues in restoring confidence where the aviation industry needs to communicate the facts more effectively.

Travelers have not made up their minds about cabin air quality. While 57% of travellers believed that air quality is dangerous, 55% also responded that they understood that it was as clean as the air in a hospital operating theatre.

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 the 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 travellers 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,” said de Juniac. “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.”

One of the biggest blockers to industry recovery is quarantine, IATA claims. Some 85% of travelers reported concern for being quarantined while travelling, a similar level of concern to those reporting general concern for catching the virus when traveling (84%).

And, among the measures that travellers were willing to take in adapting to travel during or after the pandemic, only 17% reported that they were will willing to undergo quarantine.

De Juniac said quarantine is a “demand killer”.

He said: “Keeping borders closed prolongs the pain by causing economic hardship well beyond airlines. If governments want to re-start their tourism sectors, alternative risk-based measures are needed.”

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