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.

(Related: How clean is the air on planes?)

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: From nano needles to robots, here’s how tech might make air travel safer.)

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.”

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