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Published on Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Third of holidaymakers will avoid air travel because of coronavirus


A third of travellers say they will avoid flying for both leisure and busines in the future due to fears of catching coronavirus.

A study by international airline body IATA found that the biggest worry was sitting next to someone on the plane who might be infected.

Other concerns raised by passengers include travelling on an over-crowded bus or train on the way to the aircraft, queueing at the airport, using toilet facilities at the airport and on the plane and 'breathing the air on the plane'.

When asked to rank the top three measures that would make them feel safer, 37% said Covid-19 screening at departure airports, 34% agreed with the mandatory wearing of facemasks and 33% said social distancing measures on aircraft.

Major UK airports, including Heathrow, Gatwick and Manchester have begun testing passengers' temperatures, but at the moment this is a trial and no-one with a higher-than-normal reading is prevented from travelling.

None of the major airlines flying out of the UK, with the exception of Delta, intends to leave seats empty to maintain social distancing on board, despite passenger concerns.

IATA defended airlines' decision not to block out middle seats. "Governments advise to wear a mask (or face covering) when social distancing is not possible, as is the case with public transport.

This aligns with the expert ICAO (international air safety agency) Take-off guidance," it said.

"Additionally, while passengers are sitting in close proximity on board, the cabin air flow is from ceiling to floor. This limits the potential spread of viruses or germs backwards or forwards in the cabin.

"There are several other natural barriers to the transmission of the virus on board, including the forward orientation of passengers (limiting face-to-face interaction), seatbacks that limit transmission from row-to-row, and the limited movement of passengers in the cabin.

"There is no requirement for social distancing measures on board the aircraft from highly respected aviation authorities such as the US Federal Aviation Administration, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency or ICAO."

While 45% of passengers surveyed indicated the they would return to travel within a few months of the pandemic subsiding, this was a significant drop from the 61% recorded in IATA's April survey.

"This crisis could have a very long shadow," said director general Alexandre de Juniac. "Passengers are telling us that it will take time before they return to their old travel habits. Many airlines are not planning for demand to return to 2019 levels until 2023 or 2024.

"Numerous governments have responded with financial lifelines and other relief measures at the height of the crisis. As some parts of the world are starting the long road to recovery, it is critical that governments stay engaged.

Continued relief measures like alleviation from use-it-or-lose it slot rules, reduced taxes or cost reduction measures will be critical for some time to come."

The 11-country survey was conducted during the first week of June 2020. All those surveyed had taken at least one flight since July 2019.

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