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Comment: Brits’ attitudes to travelling with Covid are evolving

YouGov data journalist Isabelle Kirk assesses research into consumers’ views on international travel

Can you still fly if you catch Covid? Travel restrictions for all passengers entering the UK, including passenger locator forms and compulsory tests, were lifted on March 18, but for travellers leaving the UK the rules depend mostly on the destination country.

As with domestic Covid-19 restrictions, the UK government has moved towards guidance, rather than legal requirements, hoping that those who come down with Covid will voluntarily stay home and mask up around other people.

YouGov research reveals that most Britons would not take a flight abroad if they caught Covid before they left the country, despite not being legally required to – although a third would bring the virus back to the UK if they contracted it before flying home.

Just one in seven Britons (14%) say they would still fly if they had a trip abroad planned and contracted Covid-19 shortly before they left the UK, with seven in 10 (69%) saying they would not travel, and 17% unsure.

However, if Britons contracted the virus while on holiday abroad, they are more split on whether they would fly home. A third of the public (33%) say they would still fly home if they caught Covid shortly before they were due to return to the UK, while 41% say they would not travel, and 27% unsure.

Britons aged between 25 and 49 are most likely to say they would still fly if they caught Covid-19. One in five (20%) would still travel abroad with the virus, while two in five (40%) would fly home with it. In contrast, just 5% of Britons aged 65 and older would still take a trip abroad if they contracted the virus, while 20% would return home on a plane if they came down with Covid.

Britons are more worried about catching Covid-19 on an airplane than at the shops or at restaurants and cafes

Several major UK carriers have removed mask requirements on flights, following the government’s lead on the ‘living with covid’ plan. It’s well known that Covid-19 thrives in enclosed, crowded spaces with little airflow – and what could fit that description better than a packed plane?

Britons are about as worried about contracting Covid-19 on a plane (41%) as they are about catching it on public transport (38%), and less worried about catching the virus at restaurants or cafes (26%), or at the shops (24%). Sporting events and concerts are more of a concern than flights at 46%.

However, more Britons are unconcerned about the possibility of catching Covid on a plane (51%) than are worried about it.

A third of Britons who plan to fly abroad this year expect their travel to be disrupted by Covid-19

A perfect storm of rising cases and reduced restrictions caused chaos in major UK airports over the Easter break as staff absences due to Covid-19 led to hundreds of cancelled flights.

Many Britons feel they are taking a chance in booking a holiday this year. For those Britons who have made plans to fly abroad for a break this year, around a third (36%) think Covid-19 disruption is very or somewhat likely.

Half (50%) think their odds are better, considering it not very likely or not at all likely that the pandemic could upset their plans.

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