GENEVA 9 July 2020: Public opinion research shows the willingness to travel being tempered by concerns over the risks of catching Covid-19 during air travel,  The International Air Transport Association (IATA) reports.

The Traveller Survey reveals travellers are taking precautions to protect themselves from Covid-19.

  • 77% saying that they are washing their hands more frequently.
  • 71% avoid large meetings, and 67% have worn a facemask in public.
  • 58% of those surveyed said that they had avoided air travel.
  • 33% suggesting that they would avoid travel in future as a continued measure to reduce the risk of catching Covid-19.

The survey identified the top concerns at airports and during a
flight.

At the airport
Being in a crowded bus/train on the way to the aircraft (59%).
Queuing at check-in/security/border control or boarding (42%).
Using airport restrooms/toilet facilities (38%)

Onboard the aircraft
Sitting next to someone who might be infected (65%).
Using restrooms/toilet facilities (42%).
Breathing the air on the plane (37%).

Top priorities
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 facemasks and 33% noted social distancing measures on aircraft.

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

  1. Undergoing temperature checks (43%)
  2. Wearing a mask during travel (42%)
  3. Checking-in online to minimize interactions at the airport (40%)
  4. Taking a COVID-19 test prior to travel (39%)
  5. Sanitizing their seating area (38%).

“People are clearly concerned about Covid-19 when travelling. 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,” said  IATA’s director general and CEO, Alexandre de
Juniac.

The survey also pointed to some key issues in restoring confidence.

Cabin air quality
Travellers 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.

Social distancing
Governments advise wearing a mask (or face covering) when social distancing is not possible, as is the case with public transport. This aligns with the expert ICAO Take-off guidance. Additionally, while passengers are sitting in close proximity onboard, the cabin airflow is from ceiling to floor. This limits the potential spread of viruses or germs backwards or forwards in the cabin. There are several other natural barriers to the transmission of the virus onboard, including the forward orientation of passengers (limiting face-to-face interaction), seatbacks that limit transmission from row-to-row, and the limited movement of passengers in the cabin.

There is no requirement for social
distancing measures on board the aircraft from highly respected aviation authorities
such as the US Federal Aviation Administration, the European Union Aviation
Safety Agency or ICAO.

No Quick Solution
While nearly half of those surveyed (45%) indicated 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 (personal and broader).

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

“Quarantine is a demand killer. 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.
Many are built into the ICAO Take-off guidelines, like health screening before
departure to discourage symptomatic people from travelling. 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,” said de Juniac.