Europe’s Business Travel is Still Grounded

(Photo Credit: Artem Zhukov/Unsplash)
(Photo Credit: Artem Zhukov/Unsplash)

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It’s been more than a year since Europe lifted pandemic restrictions, but business air travel is still lagging on the Continent, and some airline executives fear it might never return.

I’m Not Leaving on a Jet Plane

Airlines love business travelers because they’re worth more than a bargain flier who buys a ticket months in advance. Business travelers often book on short notice, so even if they purchase an economy seat, they’re likely paying a lot for it.

Unfortunately Europe’s biggest airlines haven’t felt the surge of last-minute business tickets:

  • Deutsche Lufthansa, Europe’s biggest airline, had hoped for a 90% rebound in corporate travel by now, but so far, it’s recovered roughly 60% of its pre-covid business, Bloomberg reported. British Airways and Air France are feeling the pain too, with the latter’s CEO telling Bloomberg that corporate travel in the French domestic market might never make a comeback.
  • With budget cuts and carbon emissions in mind, corporate air travel is on the chopping block for many companies. Bloomberg reported that Zurich Insurance Group intends to keep staff flying 70% below pre-pandemic levels.

Don’t Look Up: US airlines aren’t flying steady either. While many have seen helpful earnings from “revenge travelers” — those planning trips to make up for lost time during the pandemic — corporate travel is still sluggish. Reuters reported that Alaska Air’s business bookings have been 25% below pre-pandemic levels. And a recent study from Deloitte found that even if there is substantial corporate travel growth in the next year, it “will come in an environment of higher airfares and room rates, meaning that the number of trips will likely still lag further behind.”