Air travel and COVID-19: passengers’ attitudes and engagement in infection control measures
Dr Cristina Sotomayor-Castillo1,2, Ms Kaitlyn Radford1, Dr Cecilia Li1,2, Dr Shizar Nahidi1,2, Professor Ramon Zenel Shaban1,2,3,4
1Faculty of Medicine and Health, Susan Wakil School of Nursing and Midwifery, University of Sydney, Camperdown, Australia
2Marie Bashir Institute for Infectious Diseases and Biosecurity, University of Sydney, Camperdown, Australia
3Division of Infectious Diseases and Sexual Health, Westmead Hospital and Western Sydney Local Health District, Westmead, Australia
4New South Wales Biocontainment Centre, Western Sydney Local Health District and New South Wales Health, Westmead, Australia
Introduction: COVID-19 and its associated travel bans have reduced international passenger traffic by over 80% below 2019 levels. If airlines are to resume flying at commercially sustainable levels, they must work to restore passengers’ confidence and sense of security. This study examined commercial airline passengers’ health concerns and attitudes towards infection prevention and control (IPC) measures for travel health and safety in the current COVID-19 global pandemic.
Methods: A cross-sectional study was conducted inviting adult members of 39 frequent flyer groups across three social media platforms to participate in an online survey.
Results: A total of 205 respondents completed the survey. The majority (75.6%) reported feeling ‘somewhat’ to ‘extremely concerned’ about contracting an infectious disease while flying, particularly respiratory-related. Few (9.8%) reported perceiving their health as an ‘essential priority’ for their preferred airline. Most respondents agreed airlines should provide complimentary hand sanitisers (86.8%), sanitary wipes (82.9%) and masks (64.4%) for passengers to use while flying as well as more information about preventing the spread of infections (90.7%), which would make the majority feel safer to fly.
Conclusion: COVID-19 has extensively challenged the air travel industry. Passengers have signalled that they expect more from airlines, and that they would actively engage in additional infection prevention and disease control measures while flying. Airlines must ensure passengers about the steps taken to minimise travel-associated risks, and their commitment towards passengers’ health and wellbeing, in order to rebuild consumers’ confidence in the recovery of the air travel industry.
Dr Cristina Sotomayor-Castillo a senior research officer in Susan Wakil School of Nursing and Midwifery, University of Sydney. Her Interests and strengths are global health, infection diseases prevention and control (vector-borne and zoonotic), antimicrobial resistance, transmission pathway networks and molecular & genomic-based infectious diseases surveillance.