Business travel is normally a boon for the airline industry after Labor Day
Post-Labor Day business travel is not going to be business as usual this year, thanks to a resurgence of COVID-19 cases and pushed-back office reopenings.
Business travel is a boon for the airline industry, but this year many companies are putting their travel plans on hold as their offices are yet to get back to their normal routines.
“Delaying back-to-office has an effect on business travel,” Philip Baggaley, chief credit analyst of transportation companies for Standard & Poor’s, told CNN Business. “It’s harder to put together a trip where you see a bunch of different clients. And company travel policy can become more cautious.”
The idea had largely been to return to the skies as usual. A nationwide vaccine rollout had many believing the pandemic would soon be in the rearview mirror. That, of course, has not been the case, as new, more infectious, strains of COVID-19 have begun to plague the globe.
A survey done in July by the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) revealed 68% of GBTA members planned to return to business travel at some point over the next months. That number sank to only 35% by August.
“It’s a pretty dramatic change of plans,” Adam Sacks, president of Tourism Economics, told CNN Business. “We expected to see some traction from business travel in the fall. Now we’re not certain when it will happen.”
Another reason for the business travel slowdown is conferences and conventions going virtual or getting canceled entirely on account of the COVID-19 resurgence.
Events such as the National Rifle Association’s annual convention in Texas and the Specialty Food Association’s Fancy Food Show in New York are common drivers of business travel. Not this year, though.
Airlines, in general, have been experiencing better days of late. Summer leisure air travel rebounded favorably this year, with the TSA reporting it screened 77% more passengers between Memorial Day weekend and Labor Day than in the same period in 2020.