Good News! Travelers Regaining Confidence
A survey conducted by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) indicates that consumers are regaining their confidence in air travel. In its recent poll, IATA found that 57% of respondents expect to be traveling within two months of the pandemic being contained. This is an upward trend from IATA’s September poll where only 49% indicated this. Other positive findings from the survey are that 81% believe they will be more likely to travel once they are vaccinated. Many indicated frustration with pandemic-related air travel restrictions as conveyed by the 49% of respondents who believe that air travel restrictions have gone too far and the 68% who said their quality of life had suffered under these restrictions. That said, a high percentage of survey participants – 88% – believe that when opening borders, the right balance between managing COVID-19 risks and restoring the economy must be met.
On future travel trends, the IATA survey uncovered other relevant data, including:
- 84% of respondents saying they will not travel if they might be subject to a quarantine at their destination,
- 72% saying they want to travel to see family and friends as soon as possible (up from 63% in the September 2020 IATA survey), and
- 56% saying they will postpone travel until the economy stabilizes.
There also was some feedback regarding the IATA Travel Pass. Eighty percent (80%) of survey respondents noted that they were encouraged by the potential of there being an IATA Travel Pass App and would use it once available, although for 78% there was a caveat. They would use the app only if they have full control over their data.
Air Cargo Demand Trending up…In Some Regions
More good news on the air cargo front; at least for some regions. WorldACD, a global data provider reports that demand in weight increased by 1.1% year over year (YoY) in February 2021. This represents an increase over the last reported figures of a 0.9% increase. Further, rates also were up in February by a significant 84% and yields for January and February too were up by 79%.
The news, however, is not good for all regions. The Asia-Pacific region fared best with China and North East Asia experience YoY growth of 46% and 24%, respectively. There was an exception within region, namely Australasia and the Pacific which experienced a decline of 26% (YoY). Air cargo output grew across the entire region by 19% YoY.
Declines in air cargo demand were experienced in other areas, including:
- South Asia, -24%,
- North Africa, -23%
- Southern Africa, -20%
- Gulf Area, -17%
- Canada, -16%
Among the larger 15 city-to-city markets recording growth by more than 100% YoY in January and February, two originated in Shanghai, one originated in Hong Kong, and other markets originated in Paris, Liege, Nairobi, Beirut, Los Angeles, and New York. The Japan to New York market recorded the highest month over month growth in both kilograms and yields/rates.
Airports Council International World Offering Restart Guidance
Mid-March, the Airports Council International (ACI) World issued guidance for airports preparing to restart and recover from COVID-19. Given the new variants of the Coronavirus that have emerged and related government restrictions, the ACI World “Aviation Operations during COVID-19 – Business Restart and Recovery” guide presents updated best practices for an initial restart and long-term recovery. Updated in the guide, which follows new guidance provided by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), and intended to support safe travel are:
- Health and operational measures,
- Provision of COVID-19 testing facilities at airports, and
- Vaccine distribution at airports.
ACI World Director General Luis Felipe de Oliveira stated, “The priority for airports has always been to protect the health and welfare of travelers, staff and the public as it has navigated the COVID-19 crisis. While there have been faltering steps towards a restart of air travel, it will be a long haul and our new guidance issued today takes account of this changing situation for airports and will help them to lay the foundation for a long term and sustained recovery.” The ACI anticipates that a phased-in approach will be deployed in the restart marked by first domestic travel with limit passengers, followed by a slow increase in passenger volume, a gradual scaling up in capacity, and finally, a return to more normal passenger volumes.
A Look at Summer Travel and What Lies Ahead
If you are wondering what summer air travel will look like this year, Kayak’s latest flight search data might give you some idea. Kayak recently reported a record high in flight searches since the pandemic started. This high, which occurred late February into early March was confirmed by Scott’s Cheap Flights founder Scott Keyes. This is encouraging the addition of flights by several airlines including JetBlue, which added more than 80 routes due to improving consumer interest in air travel. The airlines’ attention is on leisure travel with business travel still in a holding pattern. Their addition of flights reflects not business hubs, but rather leisure destinations. Southwest Airlines, for example, is focusing on popular U.S. travel destinations such as Miami, Palm Springs, Hilton Head and Montana.
Interest in travel to Florida and Hawaii were further confirmed by Mark Crossey, U.S. travel expert for Skyscanner which noted these destinations and top searches. Google Search also cited Florida as the most popular domestic destination search to date in 2021.
Other U.S. airlines looking to accommodate summer travelers include Frontier Airlines which is now offering 60 nonstop routes for Orlando International Airport in Florida (near Disney World), as well as to beach destinations such as Santa Domingo, Dominican Republic, St. Thomas and Cancún.
Other airlines adding international flights include Delta, which added service to Cape Town in March and American, which added new flights to Tel Aviv. That said, cheap domestic flights are more likely to be found than international flights which have retained the pre-pandemic rates.