coronavirus travel

After coming to a near halt over the last few months, the travel industry seems eager to shift practices, mandating masks for passengers as they prepare to welcome consumers back.

Like all industries, airlines have suffered a dramatic disruption amid COVID-19, one that requires a change to align with consumers’ new expectations. As industries gain momentum in post-pandemic planning, one consumer sentiment that has stood out is an immense awareness of cleanliness and safety.

In a new study, Harris Poll asked for Americans’ views on the newly set president for wearing masks on planes and if it will make them comfortable to fly, to better understand expected consumer behavior for airlines.

“Overall there is a new fear of returning to normalcy among consumers,” said John Gerzema, chief executive officer of Harris Poll. “Eight in 10 Americans are still concerned of their risk of being exposed to coronavirus when leaving home for errands and 68 percent worry they’ll accidentally expose others.”

According to the study, when told that major airlines have instituted mandatory mask-wearing policies, 48 percent of American consumers said that they do not feel “fully comfortable flying again until the pandemic is over,” even with these policies. This included just 37 percent of Millennials, but 61 percent of seniors.

Further, while only 12 percent of respondents said that masks alone make them comfortable enough to begin flying again, 28 percent said masks along with additional sanitation and safety measures would make them comfortable enough to be flying again.

Notably, 12 percent of respondents said they are “mask-haters” and will not fly again until they can do so without a mask “because of issues of comfort and convenience.” At the same time, Americans want new safety measures to be efficient. When told new safety measures might increase wait times at airports, 79 percent of respondents said these delays will make them less likely to fly. Within that group, 86 percent of seniors said delays would make them less likely to fly, compared to just 71 percent of Millennials.

All hazards and new protocols considered, Americans want to travel and are looking forward to it. Overall, 33 percent of respondents said they are planning to go on vacation or travel when things return to normal, with higher-income Americans and seniors being most likely.

Concurrently, Harris Poll data shows shifts in overall consumer behavior. “Consumers will opt more for online shopping for clothes than in-store,” said Gerzema. “Half say they will be shopping more online for clothes than before the pandemic in the coming months as clothing stores reopen and restrictions are lifted, while a similar number say they will shop less in-store.”

Overall, Harris Poll data found 57 percent of consumers say retail has had a positive response to the pandemic. And 91 percent of American consumers say they will feel safe shopping at a clothing retail store as social-distancing restrictions end if the store was to take a number of precautions. More than half said they would feel safe if stores extremely clean the facility each day, a bottle of hand sanitizer is placed in the entryway, policies require employees to stay home if they feel sick, masks are made mandatory for employees, maximum capacity limits are lowered, and masks are made mandatory for customers.

“Despite financial constraints facing many Americans, consumer demand is being built up as consumers hit ‘pause’ on major spending while they quarantine,” said Gerzema. “On May 3, 26 percent of Americans say they plan a major purchase of new clothes once things return to normal.”

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