Passenger enthusiasm for flying dampened by quarantine rules

The fourth Aviation Index – an annual study commissioned by air traffic service provider NATS and carried out by Ipsos MORI – gauges the public’s views on a variety of aviation related topics. Naturally Covid, and the safety related restrictions enforced as a result of the pandemic, are writ large in the research carried out earlier this year. 

Despite enormous efforts by the airlines and airports introducing additional Covid safety measures, more than three in every five people agreed that they feel uncomfortable with the idea of travelling internationally this year, with 61% saying they were unlikely to book a flight for a trip abroad. That’s in comparison to 41% who expected to book accommodation for a UK-based holiday.

There is, however, cause for optimism. Following more than a year of restrictions, over two thirds (68%) of people said they missed travelling abroad. Similarly, by a margin of three to one, people agreed (62%) rather than disagreed (19%) that they enjoy flying as a mode of travel, and younger people in particular were hoping to travel more in the next 12 months. 

The Aviation Index has also revealed only limited resistance to the introduction of Covid-related safety measures. There is very little opposition to wearing masks onboard flights, or to the introduction of so-called ‘vaccine passports’. A total of 84% said having to prove their vaccination status would not make them any less likely to fly. However, the prospect of enforced quarantine on return would be enough to put most people off, with just over half (53%) saying it would make them less likely to travel.

Juliet Kennedy, NATS Operations Director, said: “The 2021 Aviation Index tested the temperature after a year of lockdowns and loss of personal freedoms. In doing so, it has captured a snapshot of anxiety and uncertainty, but alongside an on-going desire to travel, which will give those working in the aviation sector some optimism for the recovery.

“Having said that, it’s clear that rebuilding passenger confidence as traffic levels begin to recover will be an enormous challenge. As an industry, we need clear government policies that will help restore that confidence and get people travelling again.”

Beyond the pandemic, the Aviation Index also highlights the public’s continued and growing desire to see the industry prioritise the reduction of aircraft emissions. Two-thirds (66%) want emissions reduction to be the focus of improvement in the industry, twice the proportion who think reducing noise should be the top of the list.

The research was conducted online through the Ipsos MORI Online Panel. A total of 1,000 UK members of the panel aged 18+ took part between 8 and 12 March 2021. Quotas were set by age, gender, ethnicity and UK region, with final data also weighted to these profiles in order to generate a representative sample of the UK population.