New research released by Collinson’s Priority Pass has revealed that pre-pandemic frequent flyers are ready to get back on a plane, claiming they expect to fly nearly six times in the next 12 months.
Compared with pre-COVID averages of almost 10 flights per year, this represents a 61% recovery compared with 2019 travel.
The global survey analyses the opinions of over 46,000 members of the company’s Priority Pass™ programme, and reveals that leisure travel will make up more than half of trips (55%) taken in the next year. While business travel will recover more slowly, there is demand from frequent flyers for it to return, with the expectation that business travel will account for 45% of flights taken in the next year globally.
Confident and excited – the world’s travellers are ready for a reboot
Over a year has passed since the advent of COVID-19, and people’s lives and travel plans continue to be impacted by the pandemic. In recent months, however, the ongoing global vaccination roll-out has brought a glimmer of hope to those anxious for travel to return.
When questioned on the possibility of travelling by air in the next 12 months, 78% of members expressed feelings of excitement and 61% felt confident; findings which will likely be reassuring to the travel industry.
Looking ahead, international travel will accelerate faster year-on-year versus domestic travel. However, domestic travel (at 64%) is still set to make a greater recovery than international travel (at 59%), when compared with 2019 travel levels.
Travel experience expectations for the immediate future have changed dramatically
Understandably, the desire to keep health risks to a minimum has resulted in key changes to the way people experience airport travel, with the aim of keeping external contact to a minimum:
- 22% are more likely to fly short haul
- 24% are more likely to use unmanned facilities, such as biometric passport kiosks
- 48% are more likely to use airport lounge access than they did before the pandemic
- 20% are more likely to pre-order and collect their food and drinks before departure
- 49% indicated that social distancing and contactless transactions at the airport are of a relatively high importance when travelling.
Vaccinations are creating an environment of hope
The reasons behind growing travel confidence include widespread availability of COVID-19 vaccines, with 78% of travellers worldwide admitting to feeling more confident in the safety of air travel as more people are vaccinated, while 40% say they will travel within one month of getting the vaccine. While vaccines have yet to be fully rolled out globally, their availability continues to generate hope, as do the discussions around digital health certificates; with 74% of respondents saying they would be happy to use one.
Meanwhile, 76% of members say they would feel confident to travel internationally if getting vaccinated became a mandatory measure. This sentiment is echoed by a further 64% of travellers who agree that COVID-19 testing and the use of digital health certificates would encourage them to travel abroad.
Quarantines seen as ineffective, unnecessary, and a barrier to recovery
The survey also shows that while quarantine regulations continue to be enforced around the world, only 29% of travellers feel it is an essential safety measure; while a further 72% see it as a major deterrent for international travel. When reasons behind this largely negative sentiment towards quarantine are explored in depth, 70% blame the additional costs involved and the unpredictable nature of quarantine rules, while 61% are reluctant to spend so much time indoors; a finding which is likely linked to an increasing emphasis on mental wellbeing when travelling.
David Evans, Joint CEO, Collinson comments, "Our research shows the confidence that frequent travellers have in the coming year which is hugely encouraging; however, that alone won’t get the world travelling safely again. It’s now up to governments around the world to agree and align on an effective programme to restart frequent international travel, using digital health certificates, alongside pre-departure and on-arrival testing to diminish or remove quarantine time, while keeping travellers safe."
Andy Besant, Managing Director of Travel Experiences at Collinson, said, “It’s clear those travellers who were frequent flyers before COVID-19 are ready and waiting to get on a plane as long as the right measures, such as social distancing and contactless transactions, are in place. But the travel experience will change, with traveller demand for greater automation and socially-distanced spaces such as lounges, in order to balance the upheaval of the past year. As such, all the players in the travel ecosystem need to be fully prepared to manage the surge, which is likely to occur, with the goal of delivering a return journey that is as seamless and as enjoyable as possible. Communication and collaboration between all players in the travel industry, and in turn with travellers, will be essential.”
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