Skip the Trip

Air Travelers' Behavioral Responses to Pandemic Influenza

Eli P. Fenichel, Nicolai Kuminoff, Gerardo Chowell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

30 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Theory suggests that human behavior has implications for disease spread. We examine the hypothesis that individuals engage in voluntary defensive behavior during an epidemic. We estimate the number of passengers missing previously purchased flights as a function of concern for swine flu or A/H1N1 influenza using 1.7 million detailed flight records, Google Trends, and the World Health Organization's FluNet data. We estimate that concern over "swine flu," as measured by Google Trends, accounted for 0.34% of missed flights during the epidemic. The Google Trends data correlates strongly with media attention, but poorly (at times negatively) with reported cases in FluNet. Passengers show no response to reported cases. Passengers skipping their purchased trips forwent at least $50 M in travel related benefits. Responding to actual cases would have cut this estimate in half. Thus, people appear to respond to an epidemic by voluntarily engaging in self-protection behavior, but this behavior may not be responsive to objective measures of risk. Clearer risk communication could substantially reduce epidemic costs. People undertaking costly risk reduction behavior, for example, forgoing nonrefundable flights, suggests they may also make less costly behavior adjustments to avoid infection. Accounting for defensive behaviors may be important for forecasting epidemics, but linking behavior with epidemics likely requires consideration of risk communication.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere58249
JournalPLoS One
Volume8
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 20 2013

Fingerprint

Pandemics
pandemic
influenza
Human Influenza
Air
air
flight
risk communication
swine influenza
defensive behavior
Communication
Swine
risk reduction
Social Adjustment
Health
World Health Organization
human behavior
travel
Risk Reduction Behavior
Costs

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Medicine(all)

Cite this

Skip the Trip : Air Travelers' Behavioral Responses to Pandemic Influenza. / Fenichel, Eli P.; Kuminoff, Nicolai; Chowell, Gerardo.

In: PLoS One, Vol. 8, No. 3, e58249, 20.03.2013.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Fenichel, Eli P. ; Kuminoff, Nicolai ; Chowell, Gerardo. / Skip the Trip : Air Travelers' Behavioral Responses to Pandemic Influenza. In: PLoS One. 2013 ; Vol. 8, No. 3.
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