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Travelers are nervous about flying again after coronavirus, IATA finds

April 22, 2020
4 min read
Travelers are nervous about flying again after coronavirus, IATA finds
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The majority of travelers will take some coaxing to get on a plane again once coronavirus pandemic restrictions are lifted, a new study finds.

Only about 14% of would be travelers are willing to fly immediately after restrictions on travel aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19 are lifted, according to an April survey by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) that queried people in the U.S. and 10 other 11 countries. A significant number of people, 40% of respondents, said they will not take to the skies again for at least six months once restrictions are lifted.

The issue? Lack of confidence that travelers will not be exposed to the virus when cramped into a 30-inch pitch seat in an aluminum tube breathing recycled air.

Get Coronavirus travel updates. Stay on top of industry impacts, flight cancellations, and more.

(Image courtesy of IATA)
(Image courtesy of IATA)

"Confidence is everything," said IATA chief economist Brian Pearce on the survey on April 22. "We really do need to see measures that restore passenger confidence.”

Pearce did not claim to know what measures are needed to restore passenger confidence. However, he did suggest that they will likely include initiatives on the ground and in the air, and by both airlines and governments.

Experts anticipate things like pre-flight health checks and, at least initially, social distancing measures onboard planes -- like blocking middle seats -- to be the norm for those flying post-COVID-19.

“Health is the new safety, or will be the new safety, for air travel,” Atmosphere Research president Henry Harteveldt told TPG this week.

Related: Flying after coronavirus: health screenings in airports and emptier planes

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U.S. airlines, for one, have indicated they do not expect Americans to return to then skies in significant numbers by summer. United Airlines plans to fly about 10% of its planned capacity in June, typically the first month of the peak summer travel season.

On Wednesday, Delta Air Lines said it plans to fly just 15% of the capacity it operated last year during the three months ending in June.

“A recovery will be dictated by our customers feeling safe, both physically and financially," the Atlanta-based carrier's CEO Ed Bastian said during a quarterly earnings call on Wednesday. That recovery, however, will be slow with the expectation being that Delta will be a smaller airline for at least three years, he added.

Related: US carriers signal slow recovery with United Airlines planning to cut June flying by 90%

In China and Australia, two countries where the virus is seen as largely under control, air travel demand has yet to return to anywhere near normal levels, according to IATA. Business flyers have returned to some degree in China, but leisure travelers are still staying at home or at least not boarding flights. Australia has seen almost no recovery in domestic demand and airlines continue to fly greatly reduced schedules.

"The virus transmission there is largely seen to be under control, but we have not seen a return of air travel," said IATA director general Alexandre de Juniac referring to both Australia and China on April 21. "Indictors from the U.S. domestic market — the world’s largest — align with this."

The situation is so bad in Australia that its second largest airline, Virgin Australia, has entered voluntary administration, or the equivalent of U.S. bankruptcy restructuring.

Many expect a slow recovery for the airline industry with safety from the virus top of mind for travelers. Delta CEO Bastian has even warned employees that confidence may not fully return until their is a vaccine for COVID-19, something that at best is a year away.

Related: Virgin Australia goes bust, becomes largest airline coronavirus casualty

Featured image by AFP via Getty Images

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Best premium travel card for value
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

10xEarn 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
5xEarn 5x total points on flights through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
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  • Intro Offer
    Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®

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  • Annual Fee

    $550
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    740-850
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Why We Chose It

If you are looking to take your premium rewards to the highest level, this card is really a no brainer in our eyes. Chase's Ultimate Rewards make points easy to redeem, with a wide range of 10 airline and three hotel transfer partners and a friendly user interface. Despite the high annual fee, Chase is consistently adding new benefits to keep the card competitive in a fierce premium rewards field.

Pros

  • $300 annual travel credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • Access to Chase Ultimate Rewards hotel and airline travel partners
  • Unlimited 3x points on the broad category of travel and dining
  • 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Broad definitions for travel and dining bonus categories

Cons

  • Steep $550 annual fee
  • May not make sense for people that don't travel frequently
  • You must spend the $300 travel credit before earning 3x points for travel and dining
  • No automatic hotel elite status
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,200 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck®
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more