It’s no secret that the Omicron variant upended year-end travel and celebrations in America and throughout much of the world. Amid surging cases, flights, gatherings, and many other plans were canceled. But how widespread were the effects of the variant and how many Americans changed travel because of it? In October 2021, we polled Americans on the PureSpectrum Insights Platform about their holiday travel plans. In late December we relaunched the survey to see how much changed in three months. Here’s what we learned…
Sentiments Around Air Travel
32% of respondents we polled said that COVID-19 changed existing travel plans they had at the end of this year. In October, 75% of respondents said that they planned to travel away from their homes over the holidays. In reality, however, only 55% reported doing so. And about a third of Americans had previously planned to travel by airplane during the holidays but only 14% did.
Air travel trust levels were already dipping in October. At that time 28% of our respondents reported feeling at least somewhat uncomfortable traveling via airplane. By late December this number had risen to 40%. The increase of flight cancelations also played a role in consumer trust, in October 34% of travelers were worried about flights being canceled, and by December this number grew to 43%.
Trust in international travel is also currently waning. 3 months ago, 38% of our survey respondents said they felt comfortable traveling internationally. By the end of December, that number had plummeted to 23%.
Previously we wondered if international regulations and vaccination policies were causing fewer travelers to cross international borders. But now it seems that COVID-19 variants and flight cancelations may have played an even larger role in Americans canceling travel to foreign soil. In October, 26% of respondents said they planned to travel internationally by the end of 2021. But only 15% of our recent respondents said they left the country during the holiday season.
Vaccinations and Travel Trust
With Omicron’s breakthrough infections affecting even the vaccinated and boosted, we saw a distrust in travel rise among the vaccinated. In our previous study, we learned that unvaccinated Americans were less likely to travel by plane, especially internationally. In October 17% of unvaccinated Americans were planning to travel out of the US before the end of the year. When using the PureSpectrum Insights platform to filter respondents by vaccination status, we saw that this percentage only decreased slightly to 13% while percentages for the vaccinated travelers changed much more drastically.
In October, 41% of vaccinated Americans said they currently felt uncomfortable traveling internationally and by late December this had grown to 56%. But the bigger change in sentiment was around air travel in general. In October 25% of vaccinated respondents said they felt uncomfortable flying in a plane. By the end of December, this number grew to 40%.
But there is hope for an increase in America’s travel confidence. When asked if airlines are taking enough safety precautions to protect travelers from COVID-19, 23% of our earlier survey respondents said no. When the question was revisited in late December, that number only increased by 1%. This indicates a rising distrust of the current COVID-19 climate versus travel regulations. If the new variant peaks as quickly as is predicted, Americans could be ready to book their next flight very soon.
Curious to dive deeper into this data set, including more findings on America’s current sentiments about lodging and hospitality? Or are you interested in learning more about running your own survey or tracker?
PureSpectrum interviewed 530 online respondents on December 30th, 2021 using the PureSpectrum Insights Platform. The platform is integrated with the PureSpectrum Marketplace which combines proprietary measurement tools and third-party data validation to quickly collect high-quality insights. The study fielded in less than 10 minutes, targeted people within the United States, and consisted of a general population audience of 18+ years old. This study uses a 95% confidence level to examine the data.