Business travelers holding back on flying, for now

Mitchell Hartman May 18, 2021
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Mario Tama/Getty Images

Business travelers holding back on flying, for now

Mitchell Hartman May 18, 2021
Heard on:
Mario Tama/Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
COPY

We’ve hit another small recovery-milestone: The Transportation Security Administration cleared 1,850,000 travelers through U.S. airports on Sunday, a record-high since the pandemic hit. Though, it’s still about 25% lower than the number who took their aisle, middle or window seats back in May 2019. Most of the recent rebound in air travel, is not among the passengers airlines really want — business travelers. 

That’s because business travelers are about twice as lucrative for the airlines as leisure travelers, but very few of them are booking and boarding right now, said Madhu Unnikrishnan, editor at Airline Weekly: “It’s starting to come back a little bit with small and medium-sized corporations that need to be out in front of the customers to sell their products. But in terms of the large businesses, it’s still pretty moribund.”

Unnikrishnan said most companies still aren’t even back in the office, so there are probably fewer places, and people, for business travelers to meet with in-person, anyway. 

Business analyst Andy Challenger, senior vice president of outplacement firm Challenger, Gray and Christmas, said that companies have discovered it’s productive and cheaper to hold remote meetings. But there will still be a place for business travel.

“There’s such a deep value that comes from spending time with people—not talking about business, afterwards when you go out to dinner together” said Challenger, “that is really hard to do via Zoom.”

The Global Business Travel Association predicts we won’t get back to pre-Covid travel levels until 2025. 

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