Sponsored Content: Travelport's 10 safety measures to boost confidence in air travel

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The COVID-19 pandemic has rocked consumer confidence and created unprecedented uncertainty where travel is concerned. Travelport wanted to find out what travelers’ top concerns are, and whether the industry is doing enough to alleviate them. We recently published our Guide to travel recovery which investigated how travelers’ needs have changed, testing demand for the safety initiatives most commonly cited by our travel supply partners.

What emerged is that people want to travel — but only if stringent safety measures are implemented across all touchpoints of their journey. In addition, people also want the flexibility to cancel or amend their flights if their situation changes. So, to enable and encourage people to fly again, the aviation industry must put appropriate measures in place and make travelers aware about them.

Here are 10 categories that we found to be key to restoring traveler confidence — nine related to safety measures plus the added driver of flexibility in change/cancellation policy.

1 - Enhanced cleaning and/or disinfection

Travelers want to be sure that rigorous cleaning procedures are being followed, across all touchpoints of their journey. This includes:

  • during and between flights (71%)
  • aircraft disinfection before departure (70%)

2 - Access to sanitizing gel/disinfectant wipes

Suppliers can meet or exceed traveler expectations and give them extra peace of mind by supplying them with sanitizing products:

  • at baggage collection (69%)
  • readily available disinfectant wipes on flights (61%)

3 - Social distancing

Social distancing can be one of the trickier safety measures to implement, and for airlines it is not commercially viable to block middle seats in the long run. Travelers say that effective social distancing will encourage them to book a flight, and they want to see this implemented:

  • throughout air travel journey (68%)
  • socially distant seating on aircraft (66%)

4 - Temperature checks

The merits of widespread temperature checks, and who should conduct them, is still being debated by travel stakeholders, medical experts, and governments. From our research though, we can see that until a vaccine or effective treatment is available, air travelers, in particular, would like to see temperature checks being carried out both:

  • at the entrance to airports (66%)
  • before boarding (66%)

5 - Mandatory mask wearing

Mask wearing is becoming standard practice in many public settings, beyond just travel. This is acknowledged as an effective way of reducing community transmission of COVID-19 and is a simple solution for situations where social distancing is more difficult. Travelers seem to be embracing this trend too, with the results showing that they want mask-wearing to be required:

  • in airports (64%)
  • in the air (64%)

6 - Plexiglass at check-in

Like mask-wearing, plexiglass is also becoming more common in retail and customer-service environments. Where contactless or entirely automated processes are not possible, this is the next-best alternative, with travelers wanting to see this, in particular, at airport check-in desks (56%).

7 - Managed aircraft boarding by row

Gone are the days of the dash to board a plane — perhaps one small positive from the pandemic. Travelers are likely to exercise much more caution at this stage of their journey now and want airlines to prevent crowding by managing boarding by row. This is important to 56% of travelers.

8 - Air filtration

Travelers know that on many flights, full social distancing will not be possible. Like mask-wearing, HEPA air filtration provides them with some reassurance that they are safe in the cabin. This is important to 62% of travelers.

9 - Contactless services

Before COVID-19, having a human face at a check-in desk or front of house was important to many people, and symbolic of quality customer service. But now, as people seek to reduce their in-person interactions and close contacts, technology will enable many travel businesses to creatively adapt their processes, increasingly support self-check-in. 58% of travelers prefer contactless check-in. 

Like contactless services, mobile guest services will also allow travelers to rely less on in-person interactions in hotels. This may include room service, making reservations in a restaurant, booking leisure facilities, transfers, and more. This was important to 51% of travelers.

10 - Flexible change/cancellation policies

In addition to feeling physically safe throughout their travels, consumers also want to know that their money will be safe if they book. The COVID-19 situation is changing by the day, creating uncertainty and making some travelers hesitant to book. Travel suppliers now need flexible policies to make it possible for people to change their trip without incurring charges or cancel and get a full refund if they become unwell, or if travel restrictions are reintroduced in either their departure point or destination.

At the same time, suppliers need to make agencies aware of this information so they can confidently guide people during booking. A notable 64% of people said that having fully flexible or refundable tickets was a ‘very important’ consideration that would influence them to book a flight. During our research, our airline, hotel, and car partners mirrored this view that flexibility around change/cancellations would play a key role in restoring traveler confidence.

Let’s talk safety: communication is key

The research in our Guide to Travel Recovery showed that airports and airlines are — by and large — implementing the right measures that travelers want and need. But to stimulate demand, we must thoroughly document and communicate this effort to people, and this isn’t as straightforward as it may sound.

Right now, people are inundated with information, news, and updates about COVID-19, across personal, professional, and public channels. The WHO recently noted that this type of ‘infodemic’ makes it hard for people to find trustworthy sources and reliable guidance when they need it — even when they have access to high-quality information.

For airlines, this information overload makes it particularly difficult to cut through the noise and get their safety messages seen and heard. Plus, the situation in destinations — and the associated entry/exit requirements — is changing regularly, creating an additional challenge for agencies and destination marketing organizations.

From our research, we can see more people preferring to use a travel agency than before to book their journey. Of those, 65% said that the reason they feel more confident booking through an agency is because they can provide the latest travel safety information.

This highlights how important it is for airlines to support agency’s ability to easily find their safety information and to communicate it to travelers. To support our airline partners on this front, Travelport developed our new Airline Health and Safety Tracker.

We created our Airline Health & Safety tracker to help inform agents and consumers what to expect when travelling with 80+ airlines globally.

We also developed a new Smartpoint plugin, to facilitate airlines’ ability to communicate their safety messages to travel agencies. The plugin allows agents to stay within their workflow, while accessing airlines’ safety information, as well as the latest news on travel requirements and restrictions across the globe.

And with 23% of travelers turning to travel agencies for their ability to change/cancel a ticket, we’re also helping travel agencies stay on top of airline policy changes in our policy tracker tool.

We’re also helping airlines and airports to communicate their safety messages directly to agencies via our platform. They’re doing this using our digital media solutions, which deliver safety messages to agencies at the point of booking.

Combined, all of this is help deliver safety information to travelers, giving them confidence that their well-being is of paramount importance across the travel ecosystem.

Greg Webb, Chief Executive Officer at Travelport said, “Over the last few months, the travel industry has rolled out many initiatives to support a safe, healthy and responsible return for travel. This study highlights the criticality these measures are now playing in restoring traveler confidence. However, for the majority of travelers to return to the skies, the industry now needs to work together — to not only ensure a wide array of safety measures are in place throughout the travel journey, but to collectively communicate these changes to travelers using a range of channels and merchandising technologies.”

Read on: Guide to Recovery in Travel

It’s more important than ever that we as an industry are aware of — and in tune with — what travelers want. We must continue to work ever more closely together to build our understanding of our customer needs and deliver it in such a way that they will feel protected, both physically and financially. This is how, together, we can reconnect the world and drive real recovery.

You can find out more about how the industry is boosting consumer confidence in our Guide to Travel Recovery.