Inflight Covid infection is travellers’ biggest concern

Two in five air passengers remain concerned about catching Covid-19 on a flight despite assurance that flying is safe, according to a US poll of travellers.

The poll found concern about Covid infection while flying outweighed all other travel-related concerns, at three times the rate of concern among travellers about transport to and from the airport, six times the concern in destination and 18 times the concern at a hotel.

Concern about infection while at the airport was the only area which came near to matching the level of concern that a significant proportion of travellers have about flying.

The survey by US data analytics and consumer research firm JD Power was conducted among more than 50,000 US air travellers in September and October.

It found almost one in four (24%) had no concerns about Covid while travelling, double the proportion stating “great concern”.

However, 37% were concerned about infection when onboard an aircraft, compared with 13% in a taxi, shared ride or train to the airport, 6% at their destination and 2% in a hotel.

The survey found 31% concerned at different points while in the airport.

In a report on the findings, JD Power noted: “The ‘average’ passenger travelling during the pandemic is likely not the same as the ‘average’ traveller in a normal period.

“Previous research has discovered travellers who feel they can control their immediate personal space are more confident about travelling during this pandemic.

“The ready supply of masks and the ability to distance from fellow passengers add to this confidence.”

It noted: “What the worry-free areas have in common [is they] do not require prolonged interaction with strangers.”

When respondents were asked what safety measures they consider most important, half (48%) said a requirement for all passengers and crew to wear face masks.

This was 16 times more popular than any contactless technology such as contactless check-in and boarding (3%) or contactless payment at shops and restaurants (3%).

Mask wearing has become a divisive political issue in the US, with many supporters of outgoing President Trump refusing to wear face masks.

Improved cleaning was identified by 13% of travellers and queue management by 7%.

Delta Air Lines remains the only leading carrier to guarantee an empty middle seat on flights. The US airline recently extended its empty seat policy to the end of March 2021.

JD Power surveyed 50,000-plus respondents travelling through a major US airport and using the airport Wi-Fi in the five weeks to October 15.

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