Passenger confidence, the great challenge for airlines
New Inmarsat survey reveals flight demand is growing, but rebuilding trust requires consistent global security protocols and digital technology that minimizes touchpoints
Inmarsat, released the findings of its global survey "Passenger Confidence Tracker 2021". The results show that confidence in air travel is increasing, with 60% of passengers happy to fly by the end of the year, compared to just 47% last year.
When it comes to concerns about COVID-19, one in three people (37%) reported feeling more insecure when taking a bus or taxi than on a flight. Globally, 40% said the subway was riskier than flying.
Philip Balaam, President of Inmarsat Aviation, commented: “There is no denying that the last 18 months have been a turbulent time for both airlines and passengers. However, the latest figures from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) show that the demand for domestic and international travel is gaining significant momentum. To sustain and even accelerate this growth, it is essential to rebuild passenger confidence and ensure their changing needs are met in a post-COVID-19 world. "
Customer Experience Boosts Confidence
Certain barriers to flying are still apparent and focus primarily on the inconvenience and unpredictability of travel. The top three barriers globally were quarantine (51%), unpredictable border closures (41%), and confusing security protocols (36%).
After the pandemic, the passenger service experience was considered the most important factor when it comes to the enjoyment of a flight globally (46%), with the highest responses coming from India (67%), Brazil (67 %), Indonesia (59%) and China (57%).
When it comes to health and safety, 84% of passengers believe that implementing COVID vaccine passports is a good idea, 50% say that COVID passports should be implemented now, and 34% say that it should only be implemented when to everyone has been offered the vaccine. The remaining 16% did not believe that COVID vaccine passports were fair to those against vaccination, had concerns about the use of personal data, or did not have an opinion on it.
The survey also indicates that greater importance should be placed on the customer experience, because interaction with airline personnel was seen as helping to instill the most confidence in passengers during a flight. This made passengers the most confident in Mexico (55%), USA (51%), United Arab Emirates (50%), Brazil (49%), Greece (42%), Canada (41%) , Australia (39%) and the United Kingdom (36%).
The survey reveals that the unpredictability of flying and the seemingly wide variation in rules and regulations is further hampering confidence in air travel. As mentioned above, the potential for quarantine is the biggest concern for people (51%), rather than contracting the virus at the airport or on the plane (43%). And 62% would like all airlines to follow the same hygiene practices, which turns out to be the most important factor for Australians (63%). A consistent set of safety regulations was also the most important factor for the Asia Pacific nations, namely Indonesia, Japan and Singapore.
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 trip. COVID digital passports were also found to be a pre-flight confidence booster in this year's survey, with their importance rising to 47% compared to 37% in 2020. Greece is the only country that has passport concerns. digital COVID (36%) both in terms of personal data and fairness, and 12% of passengers in the UAE, Japan, Canada and Germany felt unfair. Other important pre-flight digital activities include destination status alerts (39%), facial recognition security (33%), and real-time baggage tracking (31%).
While on board, digital technology helps improve confidence by keeping passengers connected and minimizing their contact with others, including the cabin crew and other passengers. Additionally, 41% of those surveyed believed that in-flight Wi-Fi had increased in importance after the pandemic, compared to 30% for inflight entertainment. Onboard WIFI was the most important factor for the US (55%) and Canada (41%).
"A digital transformation was already underway in the aviation industry, but the pandemic has certainly accelerated its implementation," Balaam added. “As a trusted provider of connectivity for airlines around the world, Inmarsat has seen increased passenger use for our onboard broadband solutions compared to pre-COVID levels, demonstrating that the desire to stay connected has only been amplified. Airlines are also embracing innovative new ways to enhance their on-board experience using connectivity, with a primary focus on contactless experiences in line with current passenger expectations. "
Globally, satisfaction with airline responses to the pandemic has risen to 72%, a 12% increase from last year. This is an important result for the industry, as the reputation of the airlines is the key to increasing the confidence levels of 50% of the passengers. In addition, more passengers said they will only travel with 'reliable' airlines, which was most pronounced in the Americas with an increase of 8% from 2020 to 32%. The research also reveals generational differences, as 28% of younger passengers (18-44 years old) said they were more likely to fly only with 'trusted airlines' compared to 20% of older passengers (45-65 years).
A more demanding passenger
The study also reveals that factors such as region and age influence individual passenger preferences. In the Americas, passengers report that onboard Wi-Fi, the passenger service experience and inflight entertainment are more important now than before the pandemic. In comparison, passengers in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) see free luggage and extra legroom as more important. Younger passengers between the ages of 18 and 44, the group most concerned about contracting COVID according to the study, are more demanding when selecting an airline than older passengers, placing much more importance on loyalty programs, sustainability, the locations of airports and ticket prices.