IATA has released its latest survey revealing passengers’ main concerns as the industry restarts.

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 the mandatory wearing of face coverings, and 33% noted social distancing measures on aircraft.

Passengers themselves displayed a willingness to play a role in keeping flying safe by:

  • 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%)
  • Sanitizing their seating area (38%).

“People are clearly concerned about COVID-19 when traveling,” said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director General and CEO. “But they are also reassured by the practical measures being introduced by governments and the industry under the Take-off guidance developed by 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 pointed to some key issues in restoring confidence where the industry will need to communicate the facts more effectively. For example, though 57% of travelers believed that onboard air quality is dangerous, 55% understood that it was as clean as the air in a hospital operating theatre.

High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters capture well over 99.999% of germs, including the coronavirus. Moreover, when 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.

“It is no secret that passengers have concerns about the risk of transmission onboard,” said de Juniac. “They should be reassured by the many built-in anti-virus features of the air flow system and forward-facing seating arrangements. On top of this, screening before flight and facial coverings are among the extra layers of protection that are being implemented by industry and governments on the advice of ICAO and the World Health Organization. No environment is risk free, but few environments are as controlled as the aircraft cabin. And we need to make sure that travelers understand that.”

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 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 (personal and broader). 

One of the biggest blockers to industry recovery is quarantine. Some 85% of travelers reported concern for being quarantined while traveling. And, among the measures that travelers were willing to take in adapting to travel during or after the pandemic, only 17% reported that they were willing to undergo quarantine. 

“This crisis could have a very long shadow,” concluded de Juniac. “Passengers are telling us that it will take time before they return to their old travel habits.”

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