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A JetBlue aeroplane lands at Princess Juliana International Airport near Maho Beach in St Maarten.

Less than half of people are willing to fly

A JetBlue aeroplane lands at Princess Juliana International Airport near Maho Beach in St Maarten.

People are less willing to fly now than they were at the height of the coronavirus lockdown, according to research carried out for the airline industry’s main trade group.

Less than 50% of people polled said they would be prepared to travel with two months of COVID restrictions being lifted. (Photo: Bloomberg)

Only 45 per cent of those polled in late May and early June said they’d be prepared to board a plane within one or two months of restrictions being lifted, down from 60 per cent in April, the International Air Transport Association said Tuesday.

“If anything, consumers have actually got rather more cautious and we have a majority saying now that they would wait more than six months before traveling,” IATA Chief Economist Brian Pearce said in a press briefing. “The survey is telling us that passengers are rather cautious.”

Other indicators also point to an uncertain demand environment. New bookings are down 82 per cent from a year ago, according to IATA, improving only slightly from a low point in April. Reservations are also being made far later, with 41 per cent of people booking within three days or less of their journey last month, compared with 18 per cent in 2019. Demand for long-haul flights remains close to zero.

New bookings are down more than 80 per cent over the previous year.
(Photo: Heathrow Airport in London, England / bbc.com)

The trade group, which represents 290 airlines, called for an extension to waivers of the so-called use-it or lose-it airport slot rule through the winter season in light of the lack of forward visibility. The rule, requiring carriers to use 80 per cent of slots, has been suspended through October 24 in the European Union.

“That will give airlines the flexibility they need to focus on meeting passenger demand as it evolves, free from the burden of trying to predict what their schedule might look like a year from now,” IATA Chief Executive Officer Alexandre de Juniac said.

IATA forecasts airlines will lose a combined $84 billion this year and almost $16 billion in 2021, more than three times the outflow after the 2008 slump. Declining fares mean they’ll need to fly 80 per cent full just to break even, so that most will carry on losing money even as services resume, it said, predicting yields will be down 18 per cent globally this year.