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The Future of Travel: Testing, Health Passports and Consumer Education

As the pandemic comes to an end, what will it take for passengers to book airfare and start traveling once again? According to a new study by IdeaWorks, issues of COVID-19 perception and potential trouble need to be addressed before ticket scans increase at airports worldwide.

There is no denying the impact COVID-19 had on the aviation industry. For over a year, airlines have grounded aircraft, while hotel and rental car partners were forced to nearly shut down overnight. What will it take for the industry to start making a recovery? According to the latest IdeaWorks Company study, “Transformation 2021: How Airlines and Travelers Will Adapt as the Pandemic Recedes,” air travel won’t go back to pre-pandemic conditions until flyers are confident in their travels.

Safety Factors Include Perception, Prevention and Potential Trouble

According to the CarTrawler-sponsored study, flyers may not start booking flights until airlines and governments address certain conditions. The most critical needs right now are addressing the perception of safe travels, and the difficulties surrounding international travel.

Image courtesy: IdeaWorks Company

When it comes to perceptions of how the pandemic is coming to an end, scattered data is creating a negative perception for international travelers. Because epidemiological statistics are hard to understand and infection risk information remains unstable, flyers are confused not only about if it is safe to travel, but when their inherent risk contracting the novel Coronavirus from flying would decrease.

The constant shifts in international travel restrictions are also creating difficulties for potential travelers. With hotel amenities closed, the airport experience significantly limited and borders remaining closed for certain flyers under certain conditions, planning travel becomes more of a chore than a joy.

For the immediate future, the data suggests that the travel industry will see a quick restart as more COVID-19 vaccine doses are dispensed. Through Summer 2021, hotels can expect to see a higher occupancy rate as car trips continue to remain popular. However, both the aviation and cruise industries won’t see an increase in passengers until Fall 2021, with a full industry restart coming until Spring 2022.

Image courtesy: IdeaWorks Company

In the meantime, industry partnerships to create health passports could help speed up the aviation recovery process. While both the International Air Transport Association and the Commons Foundation rush to bring their digital solutions to life, the report cautions: “The variety of platforms upon which this data exists, along with privacy and data security issues, makes this a difficult
process to perfect and automate.”

The data is in line with other projections made on the industry. While previous reports suggested international aviation won’t start to recover until 2022 at the earliest, a Leeham News and Analysis projection suggests we won’t get to pre-pandemic flight availability until 2024 in the best scenario, and 2028 at the worst.

Data Points to Governments and Restrictions as the Biggest Barrier

Although airlines will have plenty of work to do in attracting flyers once again, the data suggests that closed borders, combined with a variety of testing and quarantine restrictions, are the bigger issue. In October 2020, IAG chief executive Sean Doyle called on the United Kingdom to once again welcome international travel by replacing border closings with a testing regime.

Grog March 13, 2021

Looks like some FT members would rather just have sunshine blown up their backsides and skip being offered any independent information that isn't already ripe for inclusion in a press release for a glossy travel brochure. I come here for honesty "flyer talk", be it advocacy or critical analysis. We need articles from all perspectives. I'm not just here for "Hey, the Boeing 737 MAX is fine--there were only two crashes out of how many flights?" echo-chambering. FT, this article was great. Keep it up!

Dr.Ells March 9, 2021

Agreed. Rather sad. I guess we have to look elsewhere now for positive, uplifting news about travel!

c502cid March 7, 2021

You'd think a website for people who travel would want people to get back in the air and on the road. Instead, they post article after article pushing fear-mongering against travel. For the life of me, I can't figure out why.