Inmarsat: Asia-Pacific pax ready to fly, approve of vaccinations, want quarantines eased or lifted

Scenes like this one at Suvarnabhumi Airport are becoming rare as travel starts to resume in Asia and elsewhere. (PHOTO: Shutterstock)

Inmarsat has released the Asia-Pacific (APAC) findings of its Passenger Confidence Tracker 2021, the largest and most comprehensive global survey of airline passengers since the pandemic began. The research reveals that nine in 10 APAC airline passengers (91 percent) acknowledged that the pandemic has changed their long-term travel habits, a finding that is consistent with last year’s survey results. At the same time, APAC respondents are the most confident towards travel precautions, with 60 percent stating mandatory proof of vaccination for all passengers will help them feel more confident about flying.

ASEAN member countries like Cambodia have been hit hard by the travel shutdown. Cambodia has lost hundreds of millions of dollars in lost tourism business. (PHOTO: Matt Driskill)

Despite 85 percent of passengers from APAC stating they were impacted by the pandemic, over half of those surveyed (51 percent) would be confident to fly by the end of the year. In fact, 20 percent of APAC passengers would happily catch a flight by next month, with 20 percent of Australia respondents would take to the skies today.

Download the full Passenger Confidence Tracker report here.

Air travel has undoubtedly faced a significant impact from the challenges of the past 18 months, as uncertainty around travel restrictions and quarantines have thrown holidays and business trips up in the air. However, when it comes to COVID-19 concerns, APAC passengers view some everyday experiences as riskier than air travel. A significant 32 percent of APAC passengers are less confident getting on the bus or coach than taking a flight, while 32 percent of passengers felt the metro or underground was risker than flying.

David Coiley, Inmarsat Aviation’s regional vice president for Asia-Pacific, said: “Since the start of the pandemic, the aviation industry has dealt with challenge after challenge. However, airlines have once again shown their resilience and stepped up to those challenges. Our latest Passenger Confidence Tracker reveals that travellers in Asia Pacific are the most confident towards pragmatic steps for travel and have positive attitudes about returning to the skies. With safety and reputation becoming even more important to today’s flyers, there is a pressing need for airlines to embrace new opportunities and differentiate themselves to encourage passengers back onto their flights as travel continues to resume.”

Despite the optimistic outlook, concerns regarding flying continue and primarily centre on the inconvenience and unpredictability of air travel. The top three barriers amongst APAC passengers are catching the virus abroad (60 percent), quarantining (53 percent) and unpredictable border closures (40 percent). When it comes to health and safety, the research suggests that greater importance should be placed on customer experience. Interacting with airline personnel was seen to help instil confidence the most for passengers, a key to the significance that an airline’s personnel and its business reputation will likely have in restoring passenger confidence. Indeed, after cabin cleanliness (70 percent), airline reputation was regarded as the most important factor when choosing an airline, according to 50 percent of APAC passengers. The research also reveals almost half of APAC passengers are in favour of COVID passports.

The research found that unpredictability of flying and the seemingly huge variation in rules and regulations is hampering confidence towards post-pandemic air travel in APAC the most. The potential of quarantine is the greatest worry for people and 62 percent would like all airlines to follow the same hygiene practices, which comes out as the most important factor for Australians (63 percent). Consistent safety standards was the most important factor in APAC nations too, namely Indonesia, Japan and Singapore.

Organisations like the International Air Transport Association (IATA) have developed digital health passports. (PHOTO: IATA)

Digital technology improves pre-flight confidence in a number of ways, such as providing up-to-date information and updates to help reassure passengers before a journey. Digital health passports (46 percent), thermal scanning (45 percent), destination status alerts (41 percent) and tracing app verification (41 percent) were found to be a pre-flight confidence boosters for APAC passengers in this year’s survey. While onboard, digital technology helps to improve confidence by keeping passengers connected using inflight Wi-Fi and minimising their contact with others, including cabin crew and fellow passengers.

Organisations like SITA are helping global airports to move to touchless technology to process passengers. (PHOTO: SITA)

Philip Balaam, president of Inmarsat Aviation, said: “A digital transformation was already underway in the aviation industry, but the pandemic has undoubtedly fast-tracked its implementation. As the trusted connectivity provider for Asia Pacific airlines, Inmarsat has experienced higher passenger usage for our inflight broadband solutions compared to pre-COVID levels, showing the desire to stay connected has only amplified. Airlines are also embracing innovating ways to enhance their onboard experience using connectivity, with a big focus on touchless experiences in keeping with today’s passenger expectations.”

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