Tuesday, June 6, 2023

US airlines rely on business travelers to maintain recovery

With the summer holidays coming to an end, airlines are counting on the return of more business travelers to recover from the fallout from the pandemic.

Air travel in the United States, fueled by large numbers of tourists, has almost reached pre-pandemic levels.

Inflation, and especially the sharp rise in airfares this year, raises concerns about how long vacationers can fly at the current rate. Airlines say they see no signs of slowing down in leisure travel.

Yet business travel is down 25% to 30% from 2019 levels, according to airlines and teams tracking sales.

And it’s unclear when or whether road warriors will return to their old travel habits.

“The whole challenge for the industry revolves around the return of the corporate passenger, and whether it will return in sufficient volume and frequency to help these airlines,” says John Grant, an analyst at travel data provider OAG.

The Global Business Travel Association recently predicted that corporate travel would not fully return until mid-2026, 18 months after the business group had previously estimated.

Business travelers typically pay higher fares, so their absence has a huge impact on airline revenue and profits.

Business travel is taking longer to return because it’s more complicated than making the decision to take a vacation after staying at home during the first two years of the pandemic, says Chuck Thakston, who is a data researcher at Airlines Reporting Corp Settlements. Leads who acts as a mediator. Between airlines and travel agencies.

“On the corporate side, it takes a little longer to restart because there are so many moving parts,” Thakston said. “If you want to meet clients in New York, there may not be anyone in the New York office. It’s slowly being rebuilt.”

Thaxton said conventions and other large gatherings are another major driver of business travel and making a comeback.

Airline officials say travel for small business operators has almost fully recovered, but many corporate travelers have not returned to the road or the skies.

Andrew Watterson, chief commercial officer for Southwest Airlines, said that as business travel began to grow this spring, “it was leaning toward small businesses and government and education travel. Our largest corporations are the ones that are lagging, especially Banking, Consulting and Technology.

Watson said that among Southwest’s largest corporate accounts, they all have traveling employees, but not as often or as often.

[Con información de The Associated Press]

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