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FAU study: Airlines, airports must do more to alleviate stress of travel

Researchers believe study could help travel industry rebound
Travelers walk through Terminal 1 at O'Hare International Airport
Posted at 12:49 PM, Oct 21, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-21 17:51:08-04

BOCA RATON, Fla. — There are signs more travelers are taking to the skies to get to their final destination.

The Transportation Security Administration screened over 1 million passengers Sunday, representing the highest number of passengers screened at TSA checkpoints since mid-March.

"TSA has been diligent in our efforts to ensure checkpoints are clean, safe and healthy for frontline workers and airline passengers, implementing new protocols and deploying state-of-the-art technologies that improve security and reduce physical contact," said TSA Administrator David Pekoske.

In addition to screening one million passengers in a single day, TSA screened more than 6 million passengers at checkpoints nationwide last week, representing the highest weekly volume for TSA since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, researchers at Florida Atlantic University and Florida Gulf Coast University challenged the airline industry to go even further to accommodate traveler needs.

Dr. Ye Zhang, FAU professor
FAU professor Ye Zhang says airlines should establish personalized profiles for travelers so they can cater to their personalized needs.

A new study released Tuesday by Florida Atlantic University said airlines and airports need to be doing more to help reduce air travel stress.

The study, published in the journal Tourism Management, was compiled by surveying nearly 1,100 passengers at the gate in airports in the United States and Brazil. FAU said the data was collected before the pandemic.

The study examined the diverse stress that travelers face during trips and how they cope at different stages of their journeys.

The findings offer important insights into travelers' needs and challenges, especially travelers who struggle with stress management.

Dr. Ye Zhang and Dr. Melanie Lorenz of Florida Atlantic University shared their study findings with WPTV.

"Airlines and airports have rich databases of passenger information, so they shouldn't waste it and treat passengers as complete strangers," said Zhang, an assistant professor of Florida Atlantic University's Hospitality and Tourism Management program.

The findings show that people with more stressful jobs tend to experience greater stress levels before departure and on their return flight.

The pattern persists no matter the adverse event, such as flight delay or cancellation, lost baggage or a terrorism or safety threat.

"This would go a long way toward increasing revenues for both airlines and airports at one of the most difficult times ever for the air-travel industry," said Lorenz, assistant marketing professor at Florida Atlantic University's College of Business.

Melanie-Lorenz-FAU-professor.jpg
FAU professor Melanie Lorenz says if airlines implemented some of these findings, it could increase revenues for both airlines and airports.

The study also found that younger people tend to be more sensitive to adverse events at departure, while older travelers were stressed by other passengers' unpleasant behaviors upon return.

People who frequently travel are more resilient to adverse events but find social disturbance and dissatisfied air service deliveries less tolerable.

"It can ultimately result in less trust for the air-travel industry as well as reduced travel intentions and loyalty," the study stated.

According to the Florida Legislature Office of Economic and Demographic Research, Florida's tourism-sensitive economy is particularly vulnerable to the pandemic's longer-term effects.

The department’s long-range financial outlook suggests the possibility of a recovery period that could last up to 18 months after the outbreak ends for tourism to return to pre-disease levels.

That’s why Zhang and Lorenz drew attention to their study about air-travel stress management and challenging the airline industry's role to find solutions that will encourage passengers to return to the airport.

"The purpose of this paper is to unveil the mechanisms of air-travel stress to effectively alleviate it and regain customer confidence," the study said.

Researchers suggest airlines create a personalized stress profile that could be generated based on passenger demographics and trip data.

They recommend airlines identify groups of travelers who could be more sensitive to certain stressors before their flight to offer personalized assistance.

Zhang believes this could help prevent the possibility of mental health issues associated with air travel and potentially protect other passengers and crew members.

The researchers also concluded that it would be wise to send personalized marketing messages tailored to passengers with specific sensitivities to offer encouragement or provide extra-clear instructions.

The study also found that younger people tend to be more sensitive to adverse events at departure, while older travelers were stressed by other passengers' unpleasant behaviors upon return.

People who frequently travel are more resilient to adverse events but find social disturbance and dissatisfied air service deliveries less tolerable.

“It can ultimately result in less trust for the air-travel industry as well as reduced travel intentions and loyalty," the study stated. "Therefore, the purpose of this paper is to unveil the mechanisms of air-travel stress to effectively alleviate it and regain customer confidence."