IATA survey reveals growing frustration with travel restrictions

Willie Walsh, Director General, International Air Transport Association

A survey commissioned by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) of 4,700 respondents in 11 markets in September 2021 revealed confidence that the risks of COVID-19 can be effectively managed and that the freedom to travel should be restored:

  • 67% of respondents felt that most country borders should be opened now, up 12 percentage-points from the June 2021 survey
  • 64% of respondents felt that border closures are unnecessary and have not been effective in containing the virus (up 11 percentage points from June 2021)
  • 73% responded that their quality of life is suffering as a result of COVID-19 travel restrictions (up 6 percentage points from June 2021)

Support grows for testing or vaccination to replace quarantine

The biggest deterrent to air travel continues to be quarantine measures. Eighty-four per cent of respondents indicated that they will not travel if there is a chance of quarantine at their destination. A growing proportion of respondents support the removal of quarantine if:

  • A person has tested negative for COVID-19 (73% in September compared to 67% in June)
  • A person has been vaccinated (71% in September compared to 68% in June)

With vaccination rates globally increasing, 80% of respondents agree that vaccinated people should be able to travel freely by air. However, there were strong views against making vaccination a condition for air travel. About two-thirds felt it is morally wrong to restrict travel only to those who have been vaccinated. More than 80% of respondents believe that testing before air travel should be an alternative for people without access to vaccination.

While 85% are willing to be tested if required in the travel process, several issues remain:

  • 75% of respondents indicated that the cost of testing is a significant barrier to travel
  • 80% believe that governments should bear the cost of testing
  • 77% see the inconvenience of testing as a barrier to travel

High confidence with travel experience; struggling with COVID-19 rules

Among those who have travelled since June 2020, 86% felt safe on board the flight as a result of the airline’s COVID-19 measures:

  • 87% believed protective measures are well implemented
  • 88% felt airline personnel are doing a good job in enforcing COVID-19 rules

There was also strong support for wearing masks, with 87% of respondents agreeing that doing so will prevent the spread of COVID-19.

With more markets starting to open to travel, an area that needs to be addressed is the COVID-related travel rules and requirements:

  • 73% of those who have travelled since June 2020 found it challenging to understand what rules applied for a trip (up from 70% in June)
  • 73% felt the COVID-19 paperwork was challenging to arrange (also up from 70% in June)

The 11 markets covered in the survey were: Australia, Canada, Chile, France, Germany, India, Japan, Singapore, UAE, UK, and the United States.