Consumers Looking to Return to Air Travel

Consumers Looking to Return to Air Travel

Travelers more comfortable flying than dining in restaurants, taking public transportation
Wearing a mask at the airport

While airlines have taken a serious hit during the coronavirus crisis, consumers may be starting to warm up to the idea of flying again.

Management consulting firm Oliver Wyman conducted a global survey to get consumers’ perceptions about travel as the world continues to adjust to life amidst a pandemic. With 59% of Americans saying they will either travel as much as or more than they traveled in the past, many report being more comfortable with the idea of flying than other types of public-facing events.

Consumers between the ages of 30-44 were more comfortable with the idea of hopping on a plane than their counterparts between the ages of 18-29, as well as those 45 and older.

Waiting for government guidance

Half of American respondents said they are looking to the government or the World Health Organization to give them the OK that it is safe to travel. Once they have that, they will be ready to go. With many having delayed milestones such as weddings and anniversary trips, there may be plenty of incentives to get away.

However, 20% said they would wait until a vaccine is been developed and distributed or the world had acquired some level of immunity from COVID-19.

When consumers do reschedule their travel plans, many may be looking to take advantage of the points and miles they have racked up that have been on hold. Though social distancing mandates have led people to look for ways to avoid human interaction, consumers are more ready to fly than to engage in other interactions with the public:

  • 51% said they were comfortable with the idea of flying
  • 48% reported being willing to stay in a hotel
  • 46% said they were okay with dining in restaurants
  • 25% said they felt ready to use rideshare services
  • 23% were fine with the idea of using public transportation

Airline response to pandemic lauded

One reason some travelers are willing to start booking flights is because they are happy with the way airlines have responded to the pandemic. Nearly 70% of respondents said they believed airline response has been positive. Among elite travelers, nearly 80% rated their primary airlines’ response to the pandemic as favorable.

In fact, respondents said the airlines’ response was their most important reason other than price for making future air travel plans.

However, travelers appear to be more wary of hotels. Globally, 64% of travelers said their decision to stay at a hotel would be contingent on them seeing improvements in health around the world, as well as effective methods for cleaning rooms and other public spaces.

The good news for hotel brands is that nearly 70% of global travelers said they trust the enhanced cleaning policies their primary hotel brands have put in place.

Methodology: Oliver Wyman surveyed nearly 4,600 travelers in Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States. All respondents took one or more roundtrip flights in 2019. Respondents identified as frequent travelers took four or more roundtrip flights in 2019. The survey was conducted between April 24 and May 10.

Tamara E. Holmes

Tamara E. Holmes is a Washington, DC-based writer who covers personal finance, entrepreneurship and careers.