UK business travel will not return to its pre-Covid-19 level and the domestic aviation market will be smaller overall as a result, the head of Scottish regional carrier Loganair has warned.
Loganair chief executive Jonathan Hinkles told the Airlines 2021 conference in London yesterday: “We are looking at a much lower level of business travel. The market will be smaller overall.”
Hinkles argued: “We’ve all moved on to Zoom or Teams and a proportion of that is going to stick.
“Some element of business travel will still have to be done in person. But a proportion of the services sector is not going to revert back to the [business travel] ethos it had. It’s not going to come back. You are looking at a smaller business travel sector.”
He told the conference: “Do we see a lift in the domestic leisure market compensating for that – probably not. We’ll probably see a smaller domestic market. That is what we are planning our schedule for.”
However, easyJet chief commercial officer Sophie Dekkers told the conference: “We launched 19 UK domestic routes since 2019 and our proportion of business traffic was higher during Covid than pre-Covid.
“On the back of the financial crisis [in 2008-09] we saw corporates hit on low cost travel. Our international and inbound traffic has been softer, but our business passenger levels in September were as high as in February 2020.”
She added: “People will still be commuting, but we might see the commute change from a Sunday night/Monday morning and Thursday/Friday night. We may see a flattening across the week.”
But Hinkles insisted: “The market is changing rapidly. We see some very different travel patterns. We’re seeing demand less early in the morning and late at night and more during the day, which makes schedule planning difficult.
“A smaller market is emerging. We’re not going to replace the volume of business trips that have gone.”