Airline chiefs forecast business travel will return

Business travel will largely recover from Covid-19 but could be more impacted by corporate carbon-reduction policies, say aviation leaders.

EasyJet chief executive Johan Lundgren told the World Aviation Festival in London: “Business travel is already coming back – for us, I think, more than for others.

“SMEs are coming back much quicker than large corporates because they don’t have the same restrictions on travel as large corporates have.”

Lundgren suggested: “Business travel will go back to the levels of 2019 and then grow. Remember, after the global financial crisis there was the debate that business travel would never come back. It took two years.

“It’s difficult to know exactly what will happen, but there will be more businesses and more people mixing business and holidays through remote working.”

Former British Airways chief executive Alex Cruz agreed, saying: “Business travel will recover. The permanent impact on business travel won’t be Covid related, it will be sustainability related.”

He told the World Aviation Festival: “The recovery from Covid will be quicker than expected.”

Virgin Atlantic chief executive Shai Weiss acknowledged: “Day trips to Brussels or New York may be cut by technology and by sustainability.”

He said: “We do start to see a recovery in business travel. We’re already 30% booked [for business travel] in summer 2022 on 2019.”

However, Weiss added: “The forecast is business travel will return by 2023. But it is not clear to any of us because every time we think we know what will happen, something else happens.”

Martin Gauss, chief executive of regional carrier Air Baltic, noted: “We are 30% down on total passengers, but in business class we are only 15% down. It’s not the corporates [flying] it’s other people who want the comfort of business class.”

He suggested: “The big corporates will probably not allow people to go business class for short trips [in future].”

Microsoft global leader for travel and transportation Julie Shainock argued: “Hybrid events are here to stay. We’ll see more in 2022 and 2023, and people may not do short trips. But face-to-face travel can’t be replaced.”

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