Inmarsat, an expert in global mobile satellite communications, recently conducted the largest global passenger survey since the pandemic struck.
The ‘Passenger Confidence Tracker’ has shed light on the thoughts and opinions of 9,500 respondents from 12 countries, including over 500 UAE-based passengers, about the future of flying.
Nine out of 10 residents and citizens from the UAE have stated that they will change their flying habits and routines, even after the COVID-19 pandemic is over. The survey uncovered that UAE travellers are keen to return to the skies soon but would do so more confidently if certain measures were applied along their travel and inflight journey.
Regional vice president – Middle East, Africa and South Asia, Inmarsat Aviation, Neale Faulkner declared: “The findings from our ‘Passenger Confidence Tracker’ suggest a significant shift in travel behaviour is underway, which is likely to reshape air travel for the long-term.
“While UAE passengers are eager to return to travelling, the findings reveal their concerns around points of engagement and the inflight experience. This shows a clear opportunity for airlines to provide new digital services — from medical support to pre-ordered catering and contactless payment during the flight — to boost passenger confidence, while making sure health and safety needs can be fully met,” Faulkner added.
Due to travel restrictions constantly changing, the UAE passengers surveyed explained that they are now more concerned about having to quarantine than the risk of catching the virus on the plane or while abroad. Passengers also highlighted their concerns over unpredictable border closures whilst travelling, which might leave them unable to return to the UAE.
At the forefront of UAE travellers’ minds is trust in airlines. Over a quarter of those surveyed said they would only fly with airlines they trust, while over half of total passengers (52 per cent) highlighted that reputation is now a more significant factor when choosing a carrier than it was pre-pandemic. Because of this, 32 per cent of UAE respondents expressed that they are likely to cut back on air travel. Sharing similar sentiments, a third (31 per cent) of global respondents plan to fly less, with four in 10 global passengers (41 per cent) expecting to travel less overall.
Whilst air travel is expected to decline in the near to medium term, passengers from the UAE are more likely than their global counterparts to have taken a flight since the pandemic. Almost half of the respondents (46 per cent) confirmed that they have been on at least one flight – the third highest rate after India and the United States.
Notably, the ‘Passenger Confidence Tracker’ found that that almost half (47 per cent) of total passengers surveyed expect to feel ready to fly before April 2021, while three in five UAE-based passengers say they would be confident to fly within the next six months.
With regards to the overall flying experience, the survey results suggest that in 2020, UAE flyers are mostly concerned with inflight touchpoints, such as being served an inflight meal or visiting the aircraft toilet. In contrast, UAE citizens and residents are comfortable moving around the airport terminal, at the boarding gate and while boarding. They also expressed more confidence in being around other passengers when compared to the global response.
Finally, the survey has identified several actions for airlines to improve the experience of flying for UAE passengers post-COVID. These include elevated service and priority boarding; digital solutions that minimise touchpoints and engagement; keeping passengers connected with WiFi; and a toilet queuing booking app.