Travellers more frustrated with flight, border restrictions: Iata survey

Airport staff wearing personal protective equipment checking the documentation of passengers arriving at Phuket International Airport in August. PHOTO: AFP

SINGAPORE - Air travellers are increasingly frustrated with Covid-19 travel restrictions, with most feeling that country borders should be opened now and travel freedom must be restored.

Those were the findings of a September survey of 4,700 respondents from 11 different markets, conducted by the International Air Transport Association (Iata).

The survey revealed that travellers felt the risks of Covid-19 can be effectively managed.

The survey showed that 67 per cent of respondents felt that most country borders should be opened now, up 12 percentage points from the last survey in June. Meanwhile, 64 per cent felt that border closures are unnecessary and have not been effective in containing the virus, up 11 percentage points from June.

Close to three-quarters of the respondents said their quality of life is suffering as a result of Covid-19 travel restrictions, up 6 percentage points from June.

"People are increasingly frustrated with the Covid-19 travel restrictions and even more have seen their quality of life suffer as a result," said Iata director-general Willie Walsh.

He added that many do not see the necessity of travel restrictions to control the virus.

"They have missed too many family moments, personal development opportunities and business priorities. The message they are sending to governments is: Covid-19 is not going to disappear, so we must establish a way to manage its risks while living and travelling normally," he said.

Iata, which is winding up its 77th annual general meeting in Boston, said the biggest deterrent to air travel continues to be quarantine measures, with 84 per cent of respondents saying they will not travel if there is a chance of quarantine at their destination.

A growing proportion of respondents supports the removal of quarantine if a person has tested negative for Covid-19 and has been vaccinated.

With vaccination rates increasing globally, 80 per cent of respondents agree that vaccinated people should be able to travel freely by air, Iata said.

However, there were also strong views against making vaccination a condition for air travel.

The survey revealed that travellers felt the risks of Covid-19 can be effectively managed. PHOTO: AFP

About two-thirds felt it is morally wrong to restrict travel only to those who have been vaccinated. More than 80 per cent of respondents believed that testing before air travel should be an alternative for people without access to vaccination.

The survey also found that between 75 per cent and 80 per cent of respondents indicated that the cost and inconvenience of testing were a significant barrier to travel, and want governments to bear the costs.

"People are willing to be tested to travel. But they don't like the cost or the inconvenience. Both can be addressed by governments," Mr Walsh said.

Among those who had travelled since June 2020, 86 per cent felt safe on board a flight owing to Covid-19 measures. Many believed the protective measures are well-implemented, with airline personnel doing a good job in enforcing restrictions.

There was also near overwhelming support for wearing masks, with 87 per cent agreeing that doing so will prevent the spread of Covid-19.

However, they also found the current rules for travel and the paperwork involved challenging.

"To secure the recovery, governments need to simplify processes, restore the freedom to travel and adopt digital solutions to issue and manage travel health credentials," said Mr Walsh.

Nevertheless, Iata on Monday (Oct 4) projected international travel demand to double next year and reach 44 per cent of 2019 levels. Total passenger numbers are expected to increase to 3.4 billion in 2022, up from 2.3 billion this year, but still below the 4.5 billion in 2019.

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