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Survey Finds Air Travelers Confident in Onboard Health Measures

IATA study found the overwhelming majority support mask-wearing and digital health passes

July 21, 2021

The overwhelming majority of air travelers are confident about the safety of their health on board aircraft and support mask-wearing in the near-term. According to a global survey conducted by the International Air Transport Association, 85 percent of respondents believe that aircraft are thoroughly cleaned and disinfected, with 65 percent agreeing that the air is as clean as an operating room.

When it comes to wearing masks onboard, 83 percent of passengers are in favor, and 86 percent support the strict enforcement of mask rules.

The poll, which was conducted in May across 11 markets, found the majority (86 percent) of those who have traveled since June 2020 said the COVID measures that are in place onboard make them feel safe. Most (90 percent) believe airline personnel do a good job of enforcing the measures, and nearly the same percentage (89 percent) said that protective measures are well implemented.

“Air travelers recognize and value the safety measures put in place to minimize the risk of COVID-19 transmission during air travel. And they support the continuation of these measures as long as necessary, but they also don’t want the measures to become permanent,” said Willie Walsh, IATA’s director general.

The survey also showed that most travelers are frustrated with COVID-19 restrictions and requirements. Nearly three-quarters (70 percent) found rules challenging to understand, and almost all respondents (89 percent) agreed that governments must standardize vaccinations and testing certifications.

In May, IATA warned that unless governments adopt standardized solutions for COVID-19 credentials soon, airport processing times could reach eight hours per trip as traffic recovers,

“These responses should be a wake-up call to governments that they need to do a better job of preparing for a restart,” Walsh said. “Almost two thirds of respondents plan to resume travel within a few months of the pandemic being contained (and borders opened). And by the six-month mark almost 85 percent expect to be back to travel.”

Walsh added that governments need to agree to replace paper-based processes with digital solutions for vaccine and testing documentation to avoid overwhelming airports and border control authorities.

In a number of industry surveys, such a move is supported by a high percentage of travelers. The IATA poll found 87 percent supporting a secure digital system to manage such credentials. Three-quarters of respondents, however, will only use an app if they have full control of their vaccine/test data.

IATA has developed a Travel Pass, one of a number of digital health credentialing solutions which are currently undergoing tests among airlines around the world. The app-based tools enable passengers to receive COVID-19 test results and verify they are eligible to travel.

“In the meantime, 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 behavior is a particular cause for great concern,” Walsh concluded.