In one of the largest global passenger surveys since the start of the worldwide pandemic, Inmarsat revealed the findings of the “Passenger Confidence Tracker.” The survey compiled responses from 10,000 airline passengers to gather insights on their travel habits and how they’ve been impacted by COVID-19 as well as predictions for how those habits will change after the pandemic is over.

According to Philip Balaam, President of Inmarsat Aviation, airlines are going to have to win back passenger confidence. “With safety and reputation becoming even more important to today’s flyers, there is a clear need for airlines to differentiate themselves in order to encourage passengers back onto their flights,” he said.

The survey, which was conducted in October 2020 by Yonder, a market research company, and sponsored by Inmarsat, highlighted passenger confidence levels from respondents across 12 countries, who had taken at least one flight in the previous 18 months. The findings showed the following:

  • 34 percent of passengers surveyed have taken a commercial flight since the pandemic began
  • 83 percent of air passengers are not expected to return to their previous travel routines, even when COVID-19 is over
  • 41 percent of these passengers, plan to travel less frequently

Yet, while passenger confidence has significantly been impacted by the pandemic, many have felt that the aviation industry is stepping up to address the challenges. These actions are helping some passengers feel safer and early indicators show that as these efforts continue, passenger confidence can be rebuilt.

  • 60 percent are satisfied with the aviation industry’s response to COVID-19 challenges
  • 62 percent would like to see a consistent set of worldwide safety standards
  • 47 percent of passengers surveyed expect to feel ready to fly within the next six months

The aviation industry has been studying safety and health measures that impact passenger confidence and has found that technologies and solutions that minimize touchpoints and create a more contactless passenger journey, will go further to boost confidence in travelers. This includes health screenings, contactless payments, contactless bag drop, and avoiding congestion within airports and at security checkpoints.

Chris Forrest, Vice President of Airport Systems, Information Management Systems at Collins Aerospace, recently spoke about this contactless journey through the airport to boost passenger confidence. “Some of the innovations that you’ll see coming out now are trying to make the passenger journey through the airport as contactless as possible.” Forrest pointed to the simple use of a mobile phone to control an airport check kiosk instead of using the touchscreen, as just one example of how technology is enabling a more touch-free journey. 

Similarly, Inmarsat’s Balaam noted that “Digitalization lies at the heart” of how airlines will differentiate and rebuild their reputation with passengers, as well as “minimizing critical touchpoints in the passenger journey to improve confidence, all while keeping passengers connected.”

Nicole Grainger, Head of Cabin Marketing, Information Management Systems also from Collins Aerospace noted that “We [Collins] are seeing continued interest in both the passenger and operational benefits that can be realized in a more digitized cabin environment. Airlines are keen to make use of inflight connectivity to support and enhance the cabin service and keep ancillary revenues at an optimal level.”

Passengers will be more willing to gravitate towards airlines that have bolstered their reputation by enabling a more connected journey. In fact, the survey noted that 44 percent of respondents felt reputation was a more significant factor in choosing an airline than it was pre-pandemic. This includes airlines that have taken the extra steps to ensure and enforce safety and connectivity measures.

To continue to boost passenger confidence in the future, the survey showed that passengers want to see continued efforts, even after COVID-19 has passed, including destination alerts (79 percent), real-time baggage tracking (43 percent), pre-clearing immigration on the plane (78 percent) and onboard WiFi connectivity (39 percent).

Rebuilding passenger confidence is key in rebuilding the aviation industry as a whole and adopting the right technology to make that a reality is a step in the right direction for aviation decision makers.

Shany Seawright

About Shany Seawright

A senior executive at Strategic Communications Group and Managing Editor of Connected Aviation Today, as well as other publications, Seawright oversees the editorial direction of the publication and managed the editorial staff.