SINGAPORE: More than 40 per cent of people in Singapore expect to travel less frequently even after the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a survey by London-based Inmarsat Aviation.
The survey, which polled 500 people in Singapore, found that 43 per cent of respondents here said they expect to travel less frequently by air, while 47 per cent said they would travel less by any means of transport.
Those surveyed in some other countries were more pessimistic, with 58 per cent in India and 55 per cent in South Korea saying they would travel less frequently by any means.
Commercial aviation has taken a hit this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with the International Air Transport Association (IATA) estimating a 66 per cent drop in air traffic compared with last year.
The Passenger Confidence Tracker survey - commissioned by the satellite communications firm Inmarsat and conducted by management consultancy Yonder - surveyed almost 10,000 people across 12 countries including Brazil, Finland, India, Singapore, the United Arab Emirates and the United States.
The survey posed 18 questions to respondents, including whether they had taken any flights since the pandemic hit their countries; whether they considered places such as restaurants or public transport more or less risky than flying; and how satisfied they were with airlines' response to COVID-19.
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"Passengers are today very well aware of the different ways a virus – COVID-19 or not – can spread. Additionally, the pandemic’s global nature has also shed light into countries’ varying level of preparedness to public health challenges," said David Coiley, Asia Pacific vice president for Inmarsat Aviation.
"Given this newfound knowledge, it is with little surprise that passengers will continue to exercise caution when booking travel, even when COVID-19 is completely eliminated, by traveling less frequently in the earlier stages of recovery."
INITIAL PHASE OF POST-PANDEMIC RECOVERY CRITICAL FOR AIRLINES: INMARSAT
Mr Coiley told CNA the initial stages of post-pandemic recovery as critical for airlines, noting passengers would take these as a litmus test for future trips.
"Investments and innovations in technologies that improve the overall hygiene of aircraft interiors will thus be critical in restoring confidence. For instance, we are already seeing airlines reducing common cabin touchpoints such as inflight magazines and manuals, migrating them to digital platforms that passengers can view through their personal devices, fed through onboard WiFi," he said.
The survey found that people in Singapore were more fearful of catching the coronavirus while abroad than those in the rest of the region, with 70 per cent of respondents here giving it as the reason for not travelling abroad right now.
Another concern was having to quarantine for a period of up to two weeks upon arrival, which 72 per cent of Singapore respondents said was a major worry.
In contrast, 67 per cent of those surveyed across the Asia-Pacific said they were worried about getting infected with COVID-19 while abroad, while only 62 per cent said they were concerned about having to quarantine.
About 2,500 of the survey's respondents were from the Asia-Pacific region.
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The survey also found that 22 per cent of respondents from Singapore said they were confident to take their next flight within the next six months, and 24 per cent saying they were confident to do so within the next year.
This is comparable with the global response, with about 27 per cent of all those surveyed across the 12 countries saying they were confident to fly within the next six months, and 18 per cent confident of doing so within the next year.
Consistency appeared to be the key to getting passengers back on board flights, with 65 per cent of all respondents being in favour of all airlines following the same hygiene practices and 62 per cent supporting a consistent worldwide set of safety standards.
Those surveyed also supported the introduction of new measures to boost confidence in flying, such as the reallocation of empty seats to allow for safe distancing - which 88 per cent of all respondents supported - as well as thermal scanning before and during flights.
Nineteen per cent of all surveyed believed wearing a mask was the most important travel precaution, while 17 per cent said it was passengers only being allowed to fly after getting the all-clear 48 hours after being tested for COVID-19.
These measures are already required by a number of airlines.
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"The confidence in current health and safety measures is, in part, due to the efforts of airlines, industry bodies and aircraft manufacturers alike to educate passengers on the risks of flying in a transparent manner, and communicate their commitment to enforcing the highest levels of hygiene," said Mr Coiley.
"For instance, IATA’s recent research with the Journal of Travel Medicine concluded that the risk of catching COVID-19 on a flight with existing measures put into place is comparable to the risk of getting struck by lightning."
Ultimately, passengers are ready to return to flying, Mr Coiley said.
"But confidence won’t improve overnight – passengers need a first-hand experience of the measures and commitments airlines are making to enforcing the highest standards in hygiene."