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To Bring Back Passengers, Airlines Must Reduce Air Travel Stress

To Bring Back Passengers, Airlines Must Reduce Air Travel Stress
Joe Cortez

A new peer-reviewed study published in Tourism Management, a group of marketing and tourism management researchers say before flyers will come back to the skies, airlines must find ways to reduce stress over the passenger experience. By managing conservation of resources, airlines can potentially encourage flyers to book travel once again.

Perhaps the biggest barrier between flyers and boarding aircraft isn’t the actual threat of contracting COVID-19, but rather the fear of contracting it. That hypothesis is being forwarded in a new peer-reviewed paper published in the academic journal Tourism Management.

To Help Flyers, Airlines Could Practice Conservation of Resources Theory

“Effective air-travel stress management is increasingly crucial in determining tourist satisfaction and travel choices,” the study reads. “Particularly in a time of intensive fear about virus, terrorism, and plane crashes.”

Although research on air travel stress is still in its infancy, there’s still an understandably high level of anxiety on flying. To determine what was bothering flyers, the researchers polled travelers at the gate of multi-country international and domestic airports. They discovered that irregular events – like the COVID-19 pandemic – created more stress for young flyers, those with stressful occupations and those who do not travel often.

To mitigate their fears, the researchers from the Florida Atlantic University and Florida Gulf Coast University concluded that airlines need to practice Conservation of Resources theory to soothe flyers. To better help flyers navigate today’s experience, airlines should be prepared to use their resources to empathize and educate flyers.

“The current research proposes the adoption of Conservation of Resources (COR) theory as a holistic schema to identify through resource dynamics the potential influential forces for air-travel stress across leisure travel stages,” the study reads. “The theoretical advances from COR-based cross-stage stress analyses, and the guidance for customized airline/airport stress-soothing service strategies” should be part of the new customer experience.

From Testing to Policy, Airlines Are Working Hard to Win Back Business

Although the study offers direct, actionable advice on how to manage everything from irregular operations to unpleasant passenger behaviors and service failures, the carriers are working hard to help flyers feel safe. American Airlines, JetBlue and United Airlines have all introduced pre-flight COVID-19 testing opportunities to help flyers navigate quarantine restrictions in Hawaii and create peace of mind, while also mandating all flyers wear a face covering from when they enter to when they leave the airport. United is taking it one step further, reminding flyers to re-cover their faces after eating or drinking.

To some extent, it appears their strategies are working. According to data from the Transportation Security Administration, security agents screened over 1 million passengers across the country on Oct. 18, 2020. It was the first time screenings surpassed the threshold since the pandemic began. The flyer count was roughly 40 percent lower than the number of screenings performed on the same date in 2019.

View Comments (18)


  1. vargha

    October 20, 2020 at 4:28 am

    I flew roundtrip DFW/MIA a couple weeks ago. I slept like a baby on the plane both ways. But then again, I don’t let fear be a driving factor in my life. I’m sure that the cloth bandana I wore provided me next to zero anti-viral protection. But at least it helped calm the skittish around me.

  2. jficht

    October 20, 2020 at 5:15 am

    Airlines need tp get rid of the mask mandate.

  3. Jaser

    October 20, 2020 at 7:01 am

    Excellent story!

  4. CO FF

    October 20, 2020 at 7:47 am

    So flying is stressful for those who don’t do it often? Guess what: most things are stressful for those who don’t do them often. And how do you reduce that stress? Prepare in advance by learning, pay attention, ask questions, and don’t presume that you know what’s going on…the same way people should handle ANY unfamiliar situations.

    Unfortunately, Americans aren’t very good at that…

  5. vargha

    October 20, 2020 at 8:51 am

    In reference to the second comment on the thread, EVERYONE needs to get rid of the mask mandate with few exceptions (things like elder care facilities, critical care wards, etc.). Let people use their own common sense on mitigating risk, and pass legislation that exempts businesses from lawsuits from people who voluntarily use their services.

    It’s pretty simple. If you are afraid to fly (or go into a restaurant or whatever), then don’t. Stay home. But let those who are willing to take what they deem an acceptable risk for themselves personally, for their families, and for their friends to do so. Outside of viruses like Ebola, that has been the longstanding and historical approach. The current 10 months of data on COVID-19 doesn’t support changing that approach

  6. BC Shelby

    October 20, 2020 at 10:04 am

    …hmm left out of the stress equations is having to deal with TSA (OK, not the airlines’ fault), However there are a few other factors like the sardine tin seating in tourist where you need to be a contortionist to get in and out of your seat and are pretty much pinned in it from takeoff to landing (particularly if the person in front reclines). Next, the luggage fees which make that “cheap” ticket not so “cheap” anymore. The change of itinerary fees which are more like “fine” than a service fee. For some,there is the concern “is the plane a 737 Max?” finally there is having to connect at, and sit in an out of the way hub sometime for several hours .(which is just one more point where that luggage you paid those high fees for can be lost, misdirected, or damaged).

    Well there is the train, however the government in the states cut funding so they have to reduce service and likely increase the cost of getting a bed on a long trip to makeup for the reduced revenue. (It’s now over 2,200$ round trip from Seattle to Chicago with a compartment and the train runs only three days a week instead of daily, so good luck booking a compartment as even into next summer, there are almost none left).

  7. azmojo

    October 20, 2020 at 10:24 am

    It would help if they stop kicking people off planes who take their mask down to eat a snack or take a drink.


    October 20, 2020 at 8:00 pm

    I flew with Delta recently and they did a great job of making me feel at ease. The issue of masks is an interesting one. On the one hand people hate wearing them, and we need to be in a place where they will no longer be necessary. On the other hand if people around me are not wearing them after eating, which I saw happen in many cases, that does not make me feel at ease even though I have strong doubts as to whether pores several times the size of the virus can really stop the spread.

    It’s really the governments that need to step up by ending 14 day quarantines for those coming from low risk states like mine (and New York this includes you putting states like mine on your red list while allowing your neighbors that have it much worse to not be be considered red).

  9. SamirD

    October 20, 2020 at 11:49 pm

    I simply assume that I am risking my life every time I’m getting on board a plane full of virus filled zombies. It helps with the alignment of what to expect and what you need to do.

  10. the810

    October 21, 2020 at 3:42 am

    Airlines continue to make the mistake of targeting people who are afraid to fly, rather than those who’d be happy to travel if it wasn’t such a hassle at the moment. Not sure about the US market, but in Europe it backfired terribly.

    The trouble is that more safety theatre to put, the more you spread the feeling that planes are an unsafe enviroment – otherwise those meassures wouldn’t be needed.

    Personally, I have an all-time high travel spending this year but airlines seen zero euros from me since February.

  11. indiekiduk

    October 21, 2020 at 4:15 am

    They could give out a free mask every hour.

  12. MRM

    October 21, 2020 at 4:58 am

    Oh, vargha…you’re another one of THOSE people I see. This whole “let people decide for themselves” thing has been, is, and will continue to be a ridiculously poor idea when it comes to fighting this virus. But you do you…

    BC Shelby: Good points all around.

  13. StrongEagle

    October 21, 2020 at 10:14 am

    How about more seating space? The airlines are not filling the planes anyway… more space… less stress.

  14. exwannabe

    October 21, 2020 at 12:59 pm

    This is a pile of , …

    Air travel today is less stressful than it has been in years. No TSA lines. No worry about middle seats or COS next to you. Last time I entered the US it was littteraly less than a one minute delay to get through customs.

    Have to change a flight? No fee.

    People are not flying because there are few places to go. Business? Zoom, Teem or Skype. Vacation? Where?

  15. jjmoore

    October 21, 2020 at 2:06 pm

    @MRM – Our country was founded on freedoms, respecting freedoms, and not treading on our rights. Since I will be banned from this forum for calling the pandemic what it is, I will just refer to it as “the virus”… THE VIRUS has not presented a danger to anyone that is more so than the common flu or cold, with the exception for the elderly and those with diabetes, asthma, or cardiovascular disease. There is no reason for our government to regulate the movements and actions of EVERYONE. Those that are vulnerable need to be quarantined and kept away from others. I should not have to change my life to protect a very very small minority of people.

    @vargha – couldn’t agree with your post more. Too bad all the lemmings don’t do some actual thinking and make the right decisions… unfortunately intelligence is a gift to a minority of people, and that explains why there are so many liberals living in our society.

  16. johninmelbourne

    October 22, 2020 at 3:25 am

    After reading the responses it’s not hard to see why 222,000 people have died and 8.3 million people have developed Covid symptoms in the US. But I guess 222,000 deaths is just collateral damage and people who have lost loved ones in the pandemic need to harden up. It’s the price you have to pay to ensure others can do whatever they like with no regard to anyone else but themselves. In America, personal rights to do whatever you like regardless of the effect on other people will always transcend personal responsibility.

  17. MRM

    October 23, 2020 at 9:13 am

    jjmoore: The effects of COVID – even without death – far exceed the common flu or cold – in even “minor” cases. The refusal of people like yourself to acknowledge that one simple fact is what’s keeping this country as miserable as it can be. Your statement about “freedoms, not treading on our rights” can absolutely and positively be trumped by another simple fact: nobody has the right to inflict harm upon others – whether direct or indirect, intentional or unintentional – period. If you really believe mask wearing is a slippery slope to every movement and action of everyone being regulated by the govt., then I suggest you remove the tin hat and see if that helps clear up your thinking. The namecalling you did at the end was very convincing though…

  18. The_Bouncer

    October 26, 2020 at 7:52 am

    There is one way to bring back passengers and that is to make flying a less unpleasant experience. People who are terrified of the dreaded lurgy are never going to fly unless they absolutely have to. People who actually want to travel have choices. I decided long ago that it is never worth flying to any destination that is within a one day drive. With all the ludicrous hoops to jump through these days, I have now extended that to anywhere within a two or even three day drive.

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