On the 21st April 2020, IATA (International Air Transport Association) released a publication assessing prospects for domestic markets concerning COVID-19.

The overall consensus found the rise in air travel for the remainder of the year and into next will be slow. Whilst 40% of passengers say they will wait six months or more before travelling.

In 2018, an estimated 3.2m disabled passengers flew through UK airports. This equates to 1-2% of overall passenger numbers.

easytravelseat, 2019

To date, we have not yet found any report that considered the specific views of passengers with a disability in the aviation sector. And wanted to expand on these initial findings. 

The key findings from our survey found:

1 in 3 people with a disability have said they will not travel by air until a COVID-19 vaccine is available. 

Airlines and airports may want to pay particular attention to this when ascertaining appropriate levels of special assistance staffing both in the short and medium term.

38% of individuals stated they may still travel before a vaccine.

However, this comes with significant concerns and dependencies of course. The most common causes of concern for those disabled passengers were;

  • Lack of clean circulated air inside the cabin
  • Social distancing not being followed at the airports and onboard
  • Being in a confined spaces and close proximity to others
  • Special assistance having to assist passengers through the airport including on and off the plane
  • Inadequate seat provisioning and re-design making seats difficult to access due to the virus
  • Catching the virus abroad

The aviation industry, could if optimistic, still expect to see 2 in every 3 disabled passengers continue flying, but with a big ‘if’. Airlines and airports will need to reassure disabled passengers distinctly of their strict procedures and processes that have been implemented to reduce these heightened, but of course expected concerns. 

Ryanair has already start such awareness, with the ‘Keep Europe Flying and Healthy’ video.

Failing to address such concerns could see PRM numbers drop consistently for the foreseeable future by up to 50-75%.

70% of respondents said the financial constraints of COVID-19 have NOT made any impact on their decision to book future air travel. 

This should be a re-assuring message to the travel industry that the Purple ‘£’ remains relatively strong and coupled with the industry providing re-assurance and instilling confidence into passengers – the future outlook for PRM travel could remain optimistic.

Prior to COVID-19, 54% of respondents flew more than once or twice a year.

52% of respondents said they would wait at minimum 6 to 12 months before returning to the skies again

28% were unsure, along with an eager 20% saying they would return within a month or so (or as soon as it was deemed appropriate to do so).

Interestingly, we asked respondents when they decide to fly again, where would they be willing to travel, with 87% saying they would be happy to travel domestically and internationally, with 13% stating they would stick only to domestic travel.

To compare with IATA’s recent findings:

There is a common correlation (regardless of disability) that the industry is going to require confidence boosting measures. However, more emphasise will be required amongst PRM’s. In comparison to IATA’s 40% of passengers returning within 6 months or so, disabled passengers were at 25% suggesting a much slower return over the short to medium term. Additionally, 69% of IATA’s respondents suggested they could delay a return to travel until their finances stabilize. Whereas only 29% of disabled passengers stated their finances have impacted their decision on booking future air travel.

For more information, please contact:

Notes for editors:

  • easyTravelseat – award winning transfer device for wheelchair users to use when being lifted on and off aircraft. You can follow us on Facebook or Twitter using @Able_MoveUK
  • Between 11th May – 25th May, 330 disabled people across the globe shared their thoughts on flying in a COVID-19 world with a good variety of mobility/impairments and geographical responses across Europe, America, Asia, Australia/New Zealand and Africa
  • IATA (International Air Transport Association) represents some 290 airlines comprising 82% of global air traffic

To see the report and a breakdown of all the findings, you can download it here: