Photograph by Jeffrey Groeneweg, Hollandse Hoog/Redux
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A passenger disinfects his hands before boarding a Corendon Airlines flight from Amsterdam to Burgas, Bulgaria, on June 26, 2020.

Photograph by Jeffrey Groeneweg, Hollandse Hoog/Redux

Poll: Many Americans unsure when they will fly again

A new National Geographic survey discovers most people, regardless of age or politics, aren’t comfortable traveling on airplanes now.

Eight months into U.S. travel restrictions imposed during the COVID-19 pandemic, American passengers are still reluctant to fly, with significant numbers reporting they won’t take to the skies until there’s a working vaccine or even giving a date when they expect to travel by air again.

Only 13 percent of Americans surveyed in a National Geographic and Morning Consult poll say they’d be willing to fly now or before the end of the year, and another 24 percent said they would take a flight sometime in 2021. About a third of the 2,200 respondents to the poll taken earlier this week do not have a clue when they’ll leave on a jet plane again, a function of the longer-than-expected pandemic pullback from normal activity.

Earlier this week, the U.S. Transit Security Administration reported screening a million daily passengers for the first time since the pandemic began in March, but that number was far short of last October’s levels—and happened during a period of uncertainty with virus rates soaring in many parts of the U.S. Even so, other Morning Consult polling the week of October 19 found a steady increase in consumer confidence in resuming activities such as “going on vacation” or “going to a museum.”

Related: what is a virus? Scientists at USAMRID, the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious diseases, work with some of the most deadly forms of life on earth, killer viruses. Learn more.

Older Americans (those 65 and up) were the most cautious, with 28 percent saying they’d wait to fly until after a vaccine. Millennials (those born between 1981 and 1996), and people who identify as politically conservative were the most likely to say they’d travel now (eight percent and 12 percent, respectively).

A similar survey on travel comfort levels conducted during the first week of June 2020 by the International Air Travel Association polled 4,700 frequent fliers from countries including Australia, France, Germany, and the U.S. It found that 12 percent of respondents were ready for air travel immediately, but that 33 percent would “wait a month or two” and 36 percent would “wait sixth months or so.”

Thinking about the COVID-19 pandemic (coronavirus), when would you next plan to fly on an airplane?

All

Now

Winter 2020

Sometime in 2021

After
2021

After a vaccine

Don't know / No opinion

All adults (n = 2,200)

Gender

Now

Winter 2020

Sometime in 2021

After
2021

After a vaccine

Don't know / No opinion

Male (1,065)

Female (1,135)

Age

Now

Winter 2020

Sometime in 2021

After
2021

After a vaccine

Don't know / No opinion

18-34 (584)

35-44 (360)

45-64 (772)

65+ (484)

Generation

Now

Winter 2020

Sometime in 2021

After
2021

After a vaccine

Don't know / No opinion

GenZers: 1997-2012 (177)

Millennials: 1981-1996 (587)

GenXers: 1965-1980 (552)

Baby Boomers: 1946-1964 (778)

Political affiliation

Now

Winter 2020

Sometime in 2021

After
2021

After a vaccine

Don't know / No opinion

Democrats (742)

Democratic men (328)

Democratic women (414)

Independents (688)

Independent men (349)

Independent women (339)

Republicans (770)

Republican men (388)

Republican women (382)

Political viewpoint

Now

Winter 2020

Sometime in 2021

After
2021

After a vaccine

Don't know / No opinion

Liberal (628)

Moderate (611)

Conservative (793)

Education

Now

Winter 2020

Sometime in 2021

After
2021

After a vaccine

Don't know / No opinion

Less than college (1,211)

Bachelor's degree (510)

Post-grad (479)

Income

Now

Winter 2020

Sometime in 2021

After
2021

After a vaccine

Don't know / No opinion

Under 50k (1,000)

50k-100k (715)

100k+ (485)

Ethnicity

Now

Winter 2020

Sometime in 2021

After
2021

After a vaccine

Don't know / No opinion

White (1,814)

Hispanic (157)

Black (194)

Other (192)

Religion

Now

Winter 2020

Sometime in 2021

After
2021

After a vaccine

Don't know / No opinion

All Christian (1,138)

All non-Christian (142)

Atheist (96)

Agnostic / Nothing in particular (508)

Religious non-Protestant / Catholic (167)

Evangelical (563)

Non-Evangelical (841)

Community

Now

Winter 2020

Sometime in 2021

After
2021

After a vaccine

Don't know / No opinion

Urban (593)

Suburban (1,075)

Rural (532)

Employment

Now

Winter 2020

Sometime in 2021

After
2021

After a vaccine

Don't know / No opinion

Private sector (716)

Government (127)

Self-employed (149)

Homemaker (140)

Retired (594)

Unemployed (254)

Other (116)

Someone in the household serving in the military

Now

Winter 2020

Sometime in 2021

After
2021

After a vaccine

Don't know / No opinion

Yes (336)

No (1,864)

Things in the country are going in the right direction or they have pretty seriously gotten off on the wrong track

Now

Winter 2020

Sometime in 2021

After
2021

After a vaccine

Don't know / No opinion

Right direction (701)

Wrong track (1,499)

Approve or disapprove of the job Donald Trump is doing as President

Now

Winter 2020

Sometime in 2021

After
2021

After a vaccine

Don't know / No opinion

Strongly approve (538)

Somewhat approve (383)

Somewhat disapprove (230)

Strongly disapprove (981)

Opinion of Trump

Now

Winter 2020

Sometime in 2021

After
2021

After a vaccine

Don't know / No opinion

Very favorable (588)

Somewhat favorable (346)

Somewhat unfavorable (183)

Very unfavorable (1,006)

The top set of issues on your mind when you cast your vote for federal offices

Now

Winter 2020

Sometime in 2021

After
2021

After a vaccine

Don't know / No opinion

Economy (750)

Security (263)

Health care (413)

Medicare / Social Security (312)

Women's issues (128)

Education (94)

Energy (79)

Other (161)

Voted for this candidate in the 2018 election for U.S. House

Now

Winter 2020

Sometime in 2021

After
2021

After a vaccine

Don't know / No opinion

Democratic U.S. House candidate (739)

Republican U.S. House candidate (715)

Someone else (68)

Vote for this candidate in the 2016 election for President

Now

Winter 2020

Sometime in 2021

After
2021

After a vaccine

Don't know / No opinion

Hillary Clinton (686)

Donald Trump (780)

Other (136)

Didn't Vote (593)

Voted in the 2014 election

Now

Winter 2020

Sometime in 2021

After
2021

After a vaccine

Don't know / No opinion

Yes (1,345)

No (855)

Vote for this candidate in the 2012 election for President

Now

Winter 2020

Sometime in 2021

After
2021

After a vaccine

Don't know / No opinion

Barack Obama (839)

Mitt Romney (611)

Other (57)

Didn't vote (691)

Region

Now

Winter 2020

Sometime in 2021

After
2021

After a vaccine

Don't know / No opinion

Northeast (525)

Midwest (491)

South (860)

West (324)

Source: Morning Consult