Pack Your Bag. Business Trips Are Coming Back.

Corporate travel is still in a slump, but that may be about to change.

Business travel hasn’t bounced back yet. But it will — and the recovery may be stronger than expected. 

This isn’t a widely shared opinion at the moment. Corporate road warriors have largely stayed away from airports during the pandemic, even as cooped-up Americans have taken advantage of the vaccine rollout to plan getaways and visits with family. In a jam-packed week for airline earnings, American Airlines Group Inc. said daily net bookings had actually outpaced 2019 levels over the past week. But the bulk of that is from domestic leisure travelers; business and long-haul international demand is only 20% of what it was before the pandemic. Southwest Airlines Co. estimated business travel will still be down at least 50% at the end of this year compared with pre-Covid levels and Chief Executive Officer Gary Kelly said he wouldn’t be surprised if the market didn’t fully recover for another decade. 

“One has to be realistic,” Kelly told Bloomberg TV in an interview. “In a typical recession, business travel is cut very sharply, and it’s five years before it recovers to pre-recession levels. Is this a normal recession? No. But you have the added complication, as we all know, of the virtual and remote work environments that have been created over the last year.”

Recovery Optimism Gets Tested

It was a rough week for airline stocks amid concerns about new Covid travel restrictions and pressure on profit margins

But hear me out. It doesn’t seem logical that there would be all this pent-up demand for leisure travel and no interest in getting back out on the road to meet with clients and colleagues again. The first is obviously a priority after a mentally taxing year-plus under lockdown-like conditions. But as excited as I am about reconnecting with family and friends and taking a much-needed vacation, I’m also eager to get back to the fun parts of my job: visiting factories and meeting people. I imagine a lot of other people feel similarly. Aerospace analysts seem particularly bummed that there won’t be a Paris Air Show this year.

Click here to read the full article in Bloomberg.

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