Inmarsat, the world leader in global, mobile satellite communications, on Tuesday unveiled the United Arab Emirates (UAE) results from its Passenger Confidence Tracker 2021 — the largest and most comprehensive global survey of airline passengers since the pandemic began.
The research reveals that passengers in the UAE are amongst the most confident in the world to fly again. In fact, only those from China were more likely to have taken a short or long haul flight since the onset of COVID-19, with 79% having done so, compared to the UAE’s 75%.
56% of UAE passengers surveyed said they had travelled to international destinations, and expressed that their overall confidence in air travel had not waned — with 42% confident about taking their next flight within six months. This sentiment was reflected in the responses of fellow travellers from Spain (43%), India (43%) and Mexico (46%), who have similar levels of confidence to fly during the same time period.
Neale Faulkner, Regional Vice President for Inmarsat Aviation, said: “Although airlines have faced unprecedented challenges over the past 18 months, they have once again shown their resilience and met those challenges head-on. And the dark clouds are starting to clear, with the latest International Air Transport Association (IATA) figures showing significant momentum for international and domestic travel.
“This news will be welcomed by UAE airlines. However, to maintain and even accelerate this growth, it’s essential to rebuild passenger confidence and ensure their evolving needs are met in a post-pandemic world. Our latest Passenger Confidence Tracker offers detailed insights into the main areas of confidence and concern around air travel, direct from UAE passengers themselves. Such findings will allow airlines to increase their focus on key priorities and seize the exciting opportunities ahead.”
Despite the optimistic outlook, concerns about flying continue and primarily centre on inconvenience and unpredictability. When asked about key concerns surrounding imminent air travel, UAE passengers were aligned with global response rates. 49% per cent said quarantining and 43% cited catching the virus while overseas as two of the most offputting aspects of travel, rather than catching a flight itself.
Interestingly, 49% of those surveyed by Inmarsat in the UAE consider public toilets to be a higher COVID risk than catching a flight, followed by public transport (36%) and sporting events (30%). These top three places of concern were reiterated by global respondents (public transport 36%, public toilets 35% and sporting events 34%).
Additionally, the survey asked which actions would most likely increase UAE passengers’ safety confidence when it comes to future travel and found that the top three responses were: pre-flight COVID testing (60%), digital health passports (59%), and thermal scanning (51%).
In fact, UAE respondents are among those most supportive of mandatory proof of vaccination or immunity in order to feel confident travelling by air (53%). This is perhaps a reflection of the success of immunisation programmes in the UAE, with nearly 80% of the population now fully vaccinated.
In line with this, 41% of UAE passengers believe a COVID vaccine passport should be implemented, with 40% saying they should be implemented when everyone has been given access to the vaccine. Despite the enthusiasm for implementing vaccine passports, 83% of UAE passengers said they have been satisfied with airlines’ response to the pandemic.
Technology key for airlines reassuring passengers
Digital technology was found to improve confidence in a number of ways, such as providing up-to-date information to help reassure passengers before and during a journey, in addition to minimising their contact with others, including cabin crew and fellow passengers, onboard an aircraft.
UAE passengers cited contactless payment (49%) and inflight entertainment on their own devices (41%) as the things that most increased their confidence while flying. Furthermore, inflight WiFi is deemed the most important factor for air passengers following the pandemic (51%), followed by service experience at 48%.