The IATA annual general meeting from 3-5 October presented its seventh survey of traveller responses to Covid-19, and results from the 4,700 respondents across 11 countries reflected one key sentiment: The world cannot put travel off much longer.
“People want to travel. 86% expect to be travelling within six months of the crisis ending. With Covid-19 becoming endemic, vaccines being widely available and therapeutics improving rapidly, we are quickly approaching that point in time,” said Willie Walsh, IATA’s Director General.
According to the September survey, air travellers are increasingly frustrated with Covid-19's ongoing restrictions to travel, with 67% of respondents indicating that most country borders should be opened now, up 12% from the June 2021 survey.
Loss of freedom
Of the respondents, nearly half (43%) feel the loss of freedom associated with flying, with missing key human moments such as weddings, funerals (39%) or not being with family (37%) coming in next as a result of travel restrictions. A third (33%) also report being unable to do business normally.
Two-thirds of IATA's surveyed respondents find travel's new rules and measures challenging.
Difficulty keeping up with post-pandemic rules
While nine in 10 surveyed believe airlines to have done a good job with post-pandemic travel rules, two-thirds (73%) find understanding these rules to be a challenge. Factors include longer wait times for document checks, and hassles for arranging mandatory Covid-19 tests.
Border closures are also unnecessary since they have not contained the virus, voted 64% of respondents, while even more said such closures should end as testing and vaccine capacity increases (76%).
As governments continue to hesitate their next move for border reopening due to the highly contagious Delta variant, 61% of IATA's surveyed respondents say the variant is only an issue for the unvaccinated (61%), and 84% indicating Delta is another Covid-19 challenge to learn to live with.
Factors to booking a next flight
In terms of booking their next flights, the majority (39%) will wait another month or two, or half a year more (25%).
The two top factors (86%) to rebuilding flight booking confidence are when all passengers are vaccinated, as well as clear and understandable refund rules that protect passengers.
Eliminating quarantine continues to be a key motivator as well, with 84% indicating they would not travel if quarantine is mandated at arrival destination.
However, about two-thirds felt it is morally wrong to restrict travel only to those who have been vaccinated. More than 80% of respondents believe that testing before air travel should be an alternative for people without access to vaccination.
“The message they are sending to governments is: Covid-19 is not going to disappear, so we must establish a way to manage its risks while living and travelling normally,” added Walsh.
Also, Walsh said that governments have the power to address two more survey findings: People are willing to be tested to travel 85% — but they don’t like the cost or the inconvenience (75%).
“The reliability of rapid antigen tests is recognised by the World Health Organization (WHO). Broader acceptance of antigen testing by governments would reduce inconvenience and cost — costs that the WHO’s International Health Regulations stipulate should be borne by governments. It is also clear that while people accept testing and other measures such as mask-wearing as necessary, they want to return to more normal ways of travel when it is safe to do so,” said Walsh.