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Air travel industry 'needs to prepare for surge' in demand for travel

June 1, 2021
aviation

Most frequent flyers expressed interest to travel in the next 12 months, according to new research

The air transport industry needs to prepare for a surge in demand for flights, with most of the world’s frequent flyers now looking forward to getting back on a plane in the next several months, according to travel services firm Collinson.

The company has recently polled 46,000 people who used to travel frequently prior to the COVID-19 pandemic and found that 78 percent of the respondents in this cohort are excited to travel by air in the next 12 months.

However, the industry needs to put the right measures in place to get people travelling again. According to the survey, about eight in ten people (76 percent) said they are confident to take international flights if vaccination is made mandatory, while 64 percent said that COVID-19 testing, and the use of digital health certificates, would further encourage them to travel.

“It’s clear those travellers … are ready and waiting to get on a plane as long as the right measures, such as social distancing and contactless transactions are in place,” said Andy Besant, managing director of travel experiences at Collinson.

“But the travel experience will change, with traveller demand for greater automation and socially-distanced spaces such as lounges, in order to balance the upheaval of the past year. As such, all the players in the travel ecosystem need to be fully prepared to manage the surge, which is likely to occur,” Besant said.

Recovery

According to the latest forecast by the International Air Transport Association (IATA), global passenger numbers could recover to 52 percent of the levels seen prior to the health outbreak (2019). By 2022 and 2023, the numbers will recover to 88 percent and 105 percent of pre-COVID-19 levels, respectively.

The expected surge in demand is due to the widespread vaccination campaigns. “We are in the deepest and gravest crisis in our history. But the rapidly growing vaccinated population and advancements in testing will return the freedom to fly in the months ahead. And when that happens, people are going to want to travel,” Willie Walsh, IATA’s director general said last Wednesday.

In Collinson’s survey, respondents’ feedback indicates that private trips, not business travel, will lead the recovery in the air transport industry.

The firm concludes that leisure travel will make up more than half of the trips (55 percent) taken in the next year, while busines travel will recover more slowly.

The survey also found that imposing quarantines is seen as ineffective, unnecessary and a barrier to recovery. When asked about the significance of quarantine, only 29 percent of flyers said that it is an essential safety measure, while a further 72 percent saw it as a major deterrent for international mobility.

“It’s now up to governments around the world to agree and align on an effective programme to restart frequent international travel, using digital health certificates, alongside pre-departure and on-arrival testing to diminish or remove quarantine time, while keeping travellers safe,” said Davide Evans, joint CEO of Collinson.

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