Most travellers confident about air travel safety amid pandemic, says IATA

Most passengers strongly support mask wearing onboard in the near future. — ELLY JOHNSON/Unsplash

Most air travellers are confident about the safety of air travel and support mask-wearing in the near-term, said the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

IATA – which represents nearly 300 airlines worldwide – recently reported that based on its latest passenger survey, the majority of passengers are confident in onboard safety amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

The survey of 4,700 travellers in 11 markets around the world also shows that passengers strongly support mask wearing onboard (83%) and strict enforcement of mask rules (86%). A majority also believe the mask requirement should be ended as soon as possible.

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IATA director general Willie Walsh said while air travellers support safety measures to curb the coronavirus, many expressed hope for things to return to normal.

“They support the continuation of these measures as long as necessary, but they also don’t want the measures to become permanent,” he said in a statement.

The majority of passengers polled (85%) believe aircraft are thoroughly cleaned and disinfected. Interestingly, 65% of the respondents believe that the air on an aircraft is “as clean as an operating room”.

Among those who have travelled since June 2020, 86% felt safe onboard owing to Covid-19 measures such as well-implemented protective measures and well-trained airline personnel.

“Air travellers recognise and value the safety measures put in place to minimise the risk of Covid-19 transmission during air travel,” Walsh said.

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Unruly passengers

In his statement, Walsh also pointed out that unruly passenger incidents have increased amid the pandemic.

“We all need to respect the rules and the safety of fellow passengers. It is unacceptable that unruly passenger incidents have doubled compared to 2019, and the increase in physically abusive behaviour is a particular cause for great concern,” he said.

Participants in the survey admit that they struggle with the coronavirus-related rules and requirements and that this impacts their willingness to travel.

Many passengers (70%) thought the rules and the accompanying paperwork were a challenge to understand. Arranging Covid-19 testing was also viewed as a hassle and many said governments must standardise vaccinations certifications.

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Walsh said governments need to heed travellers’ concerns to successfully restart the tourism industry.

“To avoid overwhelming airports and border control authorities, governments need to agree to replace paper-based processes with digital solutions like the IATA Travel Pass for vaccine and testing documentation,” he explained.

Almost nine out of 10 respondents like the idea of using a mobile app to store their travel health credentials. The majority of passengers (87%) also support a secure digital system to manage health credentials.

Tech in travel

The usage of technology in post-pandemic travel is reiterated by GlobalData. Internet of Things (IoT) technology, according to the data and analytics company, can help ease travellers’ concerns regarding personal health and wellbeing.

IoT, refers to the billions of physical devices around the world that are now connected to the Internet, all collecting and sharing data. Cars, lights, refrigerators, and other household appliances are examples of things that can be connected to the IoT.

According to GlobalData’s latest thematic report IoT in Travel & Tourism, wearable tech devices at airports and other transport terminals can help travellers practice social distancing procedures and other safety compliance guidelines.

“Connected applications can make tourism flows safer throughout a smart city or destination, by providing real-time warnings about crowding,” said GlobalData tourism analyst Ralph Hollister in a statement.

“These warnings can be sent to a traveller’s mobile device through beacon technology, advising them to take an alternative route, which minimises the risk of virus contraction during a city break,” he added.

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GlobalData highlighted Hilton’s “Connected Room” technology that allows guests to use the Hilton Honors app to manage most things they would traditionally have to do manually in a guest room.

From controlling the temperature and lighting to the TV and window coverings, IoT technology allows guests to reduce the number of times they have to touch surfaces that may be contaminated.

According to GlobalData, 85% of consumers were still either “extremely”, “quite” or “slightly” concerned about their health due to the pandemic.

These concerns have serious detrimental effects to tourism recovery, said Hollister.

“Covid-19 has decimated travel and tourism. One of the main reasons for the sector being so slow in its recovery is ongoing health and safety fears among consumers, which is reinforced by governments,” he said.

The usage of IoT, according to GlobalData, can help boost travellers’ confidence again. The collection of data from IoT sensors could allow tourism attractions to analyse if employees are spread evenly and better manage crowds.

“With 82% of travel and tourism executives expecting efficiency improvements in the coming years when utilising IoT technology, combined with the ability the technology holds to make travel experiences more Covid-19 secure, IoT’s role in tourism is set to grow,” said Hollister.

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