Nearly all of the participants to a recent survey said they eventually will fly on airlines again, but responses varied on whether they will feel comfortable boarding a flight as soon as COVID-19 restrictions are lifted. The survey examined consumer comfort levels in association with businesses hit hard by the pandemic, including airlines and hotels. The results give could business events professionals an idea of where possible meeting delegates stand on traveling to attend face-to-face events again.
For the Global Consumer Trends COVID-19 Edition: The Reopening survey, conducted June 11-16, the research group Dynata interviewed a total of 11,352 consumers from 11 countries: U.S., Canada, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Netherlands, Spain, Italy, China, Singapore, and Australia. The participants were identified as either business or leisure travelers.
Although both percentages are low, business travelers are more likely to resume airline travel than leisure travelers are, but both groups are not that comfortable about staying in hotels after COVID-19 restrictions are lifted. Here’s a closer look at both travel and hotel results.
About 98 percent of total respondents to the survey said they will fly again at some point. But three in 10 respondents said they would not be okay with flying as soon as restrictions are lifted, while 26 percent said they feel totally or very comfortable returning to the air as soon as they are allowed.
These results seem to be playing out in real time, as airlines are seeing passenger numbers slowly rising from their April lows, according to data from the Transport Security Administration (TSA). Still, reservations have reached only 20 percent of pre-pandemic numbers, the report showed.
The results also match up with trends from the latest PCMA Convene COVID-19 Recovery Dashboard survey, conducted June 15-18, which also showed unease with airline travel. When asked how far they would consider traveling to a business event in 2020, only a small number of the respondents chose distances involving airline flights. Of the planners responding, 31 percent said they would not travel, while 24 percent said they would travel any distance if the meeting program was worth it. The suppliers flipped the results, with 21 percent saying they would not travel and 32 percent saying they would travel any distance necessary.
Business travelers answering the Dynata survey were a bit more likely to return to return to air travel, while leisure travelers were more cautious. All participants were asked what airlines could do to reassure passengers that their flights will be safe. The three top answers among all respondents were:
- Showing proof the planes are sterilized between flights
- Enforcing on-board social distancing, including not selling middle seats
- Cleaning the toilets between each use
Some airlines, however, aren’t willing to take some of these steps. Starting July 1, America Airlines has said, it plans to book its flights to capacity. United Airlines didn’t initiate an empty-seat policy throughout the pandemic. Other airlines, like Delta, Southwest, and JetBlue, have policies to leave the middle seat empty for the time being, according to CNN Business.
Looking at results from the Dynata survey, if there are in-person events in the near future, planners may have a hard time getting participants to book in the room block. Personal health and safety issues were also a big concern for survey participants when it came to staying in a hotel immediately after restrictions are lifted.
While the majority of all respondents said they were not totally or very comfortable staying in a hotel, business travelers (39 percent) were slightly more comfortable than leisure travelers (31 percent).
All the survey participants want hotels to help ensure their personal health and safety by enforcing cleanliness protocols for the rooms and social distancing and mask wearing among guests and staff members, results showed. When asked what measures hotels should take to make them feel most comfortable, nearly half of both sets of travelers said having cleaning and sterilizing equipment available in the rooms was the top priority.
Strict observance of social distancing in public areas was second on the list, with 47 percent of participants saying it would make them more at ease. Both groups listed wearing of masks — by staff members (45 percent) and guests in public areas (44 percent) — as the third- and fourth-most important measures.
All the cleanliness and sanitation initiatives earned votes from at least 40 percent of both groups.
While many hotels are implementing contactless check-in options, technological solutions, such as app-based door locks or check-ins, were deemed less important by both business and leisure travelers. Survey authors suggested that both solutions were available before the pandemic, so survey participants may not have weighed them as heavily as new responses to the pandemic.
The complete Global Consumer Trends COVID-19 Edition: The Reopening survey, which also covers public transportation and rail services, dining out, gyms, small businesses, and automotive, is available for download at the Dynata web site.
Curt Wagner is an associate editor at Convene.