Physical Risk Perception on Air Travel and its Ties to the Spread of Communicable Disease

Dated May 2020
This paper was written while pursuing a Master’s of Commercial Aviation from Delta State University.

COVID-19 replaced normal life with panic, isolation, and economic loss in 2020, and the aviation industry suffered drastically. As airports and airlines have been proven to be modes of accelerated communicable disease infections, this paper considers a recommendation for airlines to increase air traffic passenger health and safety by adopting a flexible sick policy that would allow passengers sick on departure day to receive a refund or ticket exchange without paying a fee. Support for this recommendation is laid out with the finding that leisure air travelers’ perception of financial risk has a stronger impact on their intent to travel than their perception of health risk. If the financial risk of purchasing air travel tickets can be decreased, passenger health can be reprioritized. A conducted study with 100 participants mirrored this theory and found that 98% would be willing to cancel their air travel trip by submitting a doctor’s note to receive a refund or free ticket exchange. Airlines can reformulate overbooking algorithms to account for sick-based cancellations and view this policy as an investment in avoiding a second virtual global air travel freeze.

Keywords: aviation, perceived risk, travel intentions, air travel, commercial air travel, air traveler behavior


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