Travelers Still Afraid to Fly Because of COVID-19By Alicia Arizpe | Wed, 07/08/2020 - 11:26
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) warns that the implementation of comprehensive biosecurity measures will be key to increase confidence in the industry and get passengers traveling again.
The COVID-19 outbreak led to the sharpest reduction in demand for air travel in recent history. During 2020, the aviation industry is expected to lose 1.5 billion passengers due to the outbreak, explained the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). Potential passengers have been wary of traveling since the pandemic started but numbers are gradually increasing, which is raising concerns among aviation organizations of a delayed recovery for the industry. In a recent survey, IATA reports that 58 percent of recent travelers reported that they have avoided to travel during the outbreak and 33 percent of surveyed travelers said that they would abstain to travel during the coming months to avoid exposure to the virus.
The association explained that while over half of those surveyed were willing to travel again to visit friends and relatives once it was safe to do so, 66 percent indicated that they would reduce their leisure and business trips. Economic concerns also played a role in the decision to travel, as 64 percent of them indicated that they would avoid travelling due to economic reasons. Passenger’s willingness to delay air travel is concerning to those in the aviation industry. “This crisis could have a very long shadow. 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,” said Alexandre de Juniac, Director General and CEO of IATA.
The fear of flying under these conditions has already had deep consequences for the aviation industry, which is now facing its worst crisis in history. To date, several airlines have folded under the pressure, with some entering administration, such as Virgin Australia, or closing operations, such as LATAM Argentina. Others have filed for bankruptcy protection to restructure their finances during the crisis, including LATAM Airlines, Avianca and, most recently, Aeroméxico.
Airlines are also implementing numerous strategies to ensure the safety of their passengers. “It is no secret that passengers have concerns about the risk of transmission onboard. 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,” said de Juniac.