Compulsory pre-flight Covid-19 tests for air passengers and crew could have a significant impact on consumers’ confidence to fly and on their likelihood to book a flight, according to research.
A survey by consumer research firm BVA BDRC found 62% of respondents said compulsory tests would increase their confidence to fly.
One in two (49%) said it would increase their likelihood to book – 28% ‘slightly’ and 21% ’significantly’. Only 16% said it would make them less likely to book.
Among those who had booked a flight since the start of this year, 68% said testing would increase their likelihood to book.
The survey of 1,750-plus UK adults in mid-July formed part of BVA BDRC’s weekly Covid-19 Sentiment Tracker.
An overwhelming majority (85%) of respondents were willing for test results to be shared with public health authorities to track infection rates.
Respondents were asked if they would provide a saliva test in a private facility before checking in for a flight, at no cost to them, with results available within one hour.
However, the results of the Covid tests widely available at present take anything from several hours to 48 hours.
Tests being trialled at Heathrow Airport by management services firm Collinson and ground-handler Swissport cost £150 a time.
BVA BDRC managing director Matt Costin said: “A number of different approaches to testing air travellers are being floated, many with the primary aim of minimising infection rates from inbound travellers to the UK.
“However, our research underlines the scale of the challenge facing the aviation and travel industry. In the absence of a vaccine, radical solutions will be needed to get travellers flying again.”
Costin said: “The appeal of a pre-flight check is the dual impact on safety and traveller confidence that they will not contract the virus while on a flight or in the airport.”
Unfortunately, studies by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and by the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in the US suggest a single test would not satisfy public health requirements because of the high proportion of false-negative results among those recently infected with Covid.
The UK government is understood to be considering a two-test system for arrivals to the UK from countries not on a ‘Covid safe list’, with the tests spaced by up to eight days.
The BVA BDRC study was based on a survey of 1,759 UK adults conducted on July 13-17.
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