Airlines Placing Their Faith in Return of Business Travel

Airlines Placing Their Faith in Return of Business Travel

Encouraged by the whopping return of travelers to near pre-pandemic, airlines are now turning their attention to a return to business travel.

According to an article on the ABC News website, carriers are hoping for a return to 2019 pre-pandemic levels – all of which went by the wayside when COVID-19 hit and suddenly business lived in a world of Zoom meetings.


“The whole challenge for the industry is around the return of the corporate traveler, and whether he is going to come back in enough volume and frequency that is going to help these airlines,” John Grant, an analyst with travel-data provider OAG, told ABC.

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But as ABC noted, while business travel is coming back, it’s still being partially undercut by inflation. Business travel is still down 25 to 30 percent from it was prior to the pandemic. That doesn’t sound like a lot considering where it has been since early 2020, but by comparison’s sake the leisure travel market has bounced back much more quickly. Let’s just say that warriors like George Clooney’s character from the film ‘Up In The Air’ who achieved 10 million miles in the air from business travel are not likely to reappear anytime soon.

In fact, the Global Business Travel Association has revised its previous prediction that business travel would return by the end of 2024 and now says it is predicting a return to normalcy in mid-2026.

“On the corporate side, it just takes a little more to restart that because there are so many moving parts,” Chuck Thackston, who leads data research at the Airlines Reporting Corp., told ABC. “If you want to go visit clients in New York, it could (also) be that nobody is in the office in New York. That is slowly building back.”

Still, airlines remain optimistic and hope that larger companies begin traveling again. Southwest Airlines chief commercial officer Andrew Watterson most business travel has been by smaller businesses and government agencies.

“Our largest corporates are the ones that are lagging, particularly banking, consulting and technology,” he said.

Southwest recently introduced a new business travel portal, a clear sign of its optimism.

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