0 min left

Are Travelers More Likely to Fly With Social Distancing?

A flyer waits at an airport wearing a face mask.

A flyer waits at an airport wearing a face mask.

In a recent American Express survey, 63 percent of Americans surveyed said they would pay extra to have an extra seat of distance between them and others, putting health requirements at the top of their demands. None-the-less, flyers are ready to travel once again when its safe, with one-third of those surveyed saying they will spend $800 or more on travel in the next month.

The overwhelming majority of high-wealth Americans want airlines to do more about social distancing, and are willing to pay more in airfare to make it happen. The findings come from the latest American Express Trendex survey, showing more people are ready to fly – so long as airlines commit to safety during the COVID-19 Pandemic

One-Third of Travelers to Spend More on Travel, With More Choosing to Stay Domestic

Alongside other surveys, flyers say they are more willing to consider traveling if they know they can stay safe from the novel Coronavirus outbreak. According to WWD, the biggest concern among travelers is in the health measures being taken by their travel providers. Of the respondents, 63 percent said they would pay more to have “every other seat” blocked off flights, while 56 said they would spend more for increased cleaning frequency of hotel rooms. Nearly half said they would pay more to have regular access to hand sanitizer.

Although COVID-19 is on the top of their minds, travelers say they are ready to get back out in the world. When asked about travel plans, 63 percent said they were most comfortable taking a road trip in the next three months, while 43 percent were comfortable staying in a hotel. Only 30 percent were comfortable taking a flight, while 10 percent said they would be okay taking a cruise.


Infographic courtesy: American Express


Even though the mode of travel is changing, Americans are already thinking about their future travel. One-third of those asked said they were planning to spend $800 or more on travel in the next month, with 40 percent of Americans likely to travel domestic between August and October 2020. Only 12 percent said they were planning an international trip in the next three months.

The Amex Trendex survey was conducted among a national sample of 2,000 people with a household income of at least $70,000, and traveled by air at least once in 2019.

Study Follows Current Trends Among Travelers

The Amex Trendex survey confirms other studies about travel habits, putting an increased focus on health and safety factors to improve passenger comfort. A recent study by Atmosphere Research suggested flyers would pay an additional 17 percent in their airfare price if it meant carriers would block off middle seats.

Although American Airlines and United Airlines are committed to booking flights “to capacity,” other airlines are committed to continue blocking the middle seat. Both Alaska Airlines and JetBlue announced in August they will continue to block off middle seats through October 2020.

exwannabe August 8, 2020

As a single traveler I would certainly pay 20% more to insure an empty middle seat., But for families the value goes down. Nothing to do with COVD-19 though.

jjmoore August 8, 2020

A 17% increase in fares for the available seats will not make up for a more than 30% reduction in max passenger load. I think it will be a tough sell internally for airlines to make this decision, unless they can capture 17% from EACH of the adjacent passengers (a 34% surcharge which would pay for the empty seat using simple math). Now this would be interesting.... but it would mean that every single passenger on the aircraft would have to be willing to pay the upcharge to keep every middle seat open. Those that don't agree to the upcharge would be lost revenue, unless the airlines can optimize their booking system to account for how many rows would have blocked middles and unblocked middles based on that specific demand. Or basic economy seat sales would be given only middle seats, and the number of basic economy tickets sold would be based on how many people do not select the upcharge.... I bet there is some thought being put into this by the mathematicians. This could be interesting the more I think about it.

OZFLYER86 August 8, 2020

in economy on a B737 or A320 family jet, having empty middle seat, with no families travelling means 66.66% load factor. But empty middle seats does not give you anything like social distancing. A test was done in a supernmarket & with one sneeze, droplets carried 6 metres across 2 aisles(with stock packed very high, much higher than an aircraft seat) & very still air in supermarket. Aircraft have air moving around & accorsing to Qantas Ceo allan joyce, to even get close to social distancing, could only sell 22 seats (to individuals) on a 180 seat aircraft, that's a load factor of only 12.22%