The 1st Battleground: Safety & Sanitation

By David Griffiths

VP Content, Head of Insight
5 minute read

Heraclitus’ quote that ‘everything changes and nothing stands still’ has never seemed more appropriate. Not just in describing how this horrible pandemic has changed everything for everyone around the world, but also in describing the swing in passenger desire to travel we’ve seen emerging in the past week alone. As we’ve said previously, we’re seeing trends move from the ground to the air faster than ever before, but this is something else. Perhaps driven by the easing of stay-at-home restrictions for many of us, or the move into summer for many others, the inclination is shifting from wanting to be safe at home, to travelling safer. Given this rapid change, it seems only right that we tackle the Safety and Sanitation Battleground first.

Across our 900m+ passenger conversation dataset, the Safety & Sanitation Battleground has grown in importance to passengers by 300% in the past 3 months, although it’s important to note this has been a rising concern for the past 24 months, long before Covid19. This growth is perhaps unsurprising; what was surprising were some of the trends driving this growth and the early indicators this gives to the industry.

Perhaps the most important place to start for most airlines and airports will need to be in how and what they are communicating with their passengers. We have seen a growth of 1400% in people looking for information around the safety measures and active sanitation steps airlines and airports are taking to protect passengers’ health. Social distance seating, limiting food and beverage service etc. are all drawing positive sentiment. We’ve seen the former grow by 2,900% and food service concerns increase by 900%.

Passengers are not placing the onus solely on airports and airlines either. We’ve seen a 411% spike in people discussing PPE measures they’ll be taking. Lysol and Clorox should take note; they’ve both seen an average of 14,170% growth in importance to US passenger travel conversations. Expect to see many of their brightly coloured tubs stuffed into seat pockets when you next walk the aisle to your seat. The sound of hand sanitizer lids popping open throughout the flight will also be commonplace as we see a 3,600% growth in people talking about it now being a travel essential for getting into the skies quickly. Surprisingly, we’ve also seen a growth of 51% in conversations from people who talk about having pre-existing conditions or being from the groups considered more vulnerable wanting to fly.

It’s been interesting to explore where the focus of passenger concern has been. We’ve seen the growth rate of people talking generally about sanitation onboard slow to 185%. The total volume of conversation hasn’t died down at all, it has shifted gears to a couple of areas.

Firstly, the conversation about inflight / onboard sanitation is now moving to one that is focused around the specifics we talked about above, such as PPE or the Airline practices and processes, etc.

Secondly we’ve seen the wave shift toward airport safety and sanitation, with this area now growing at a faster rate of 238%. Tailing behind this, but emerging this week, we’ve seen a focus from passengers in understanding the safety and sanitation measures different ground transportation services are taking (68% growth), and then in the last few days a 28% growth in the same conversation topics focused around hotels. This indicates an interesting trend; passengers systematically piecing together an understanding of the safety measures at journey touchpoint:

  i. Is it safe to fly?

  ii. Has the airline made it safe?

  iii. Is it safe to travel through the airport?

  iv. Is the transportation when I land safe?; and,

  v. Is the hotel a safe environment for me to stay in when I land?

We can see by the thread of conversation that is currently in hotels that we’ve got a little way to go before this converts to dollars and bookings and probably a few more steps of rationalising – sanitation at destination, destination safety, destination itself even, but the numbers we’ve seen this week surprised us. We knew there’d be an appetite to fly quickly when government restrictions began to ease and the curves began to crest, but we didn’t expect passengers to be at this stage, this quickly. We certainly didn’t expect to see the tens of thousands of conversations focused on the measures people can take to travel safely; we thought we’d see more people still looking to understand the general situation.

David Griffiths,

  • Head of Insight Fethr
  • VP Content Black Swan

Thank you for reading, and for more information or to explore any of the above in any further detail please get in touch with Patrick Prefontaine at patrick.prefontaine@blackswan.com or by using the contact form below.

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