Tuesday, June 22, 2021

French Airline CEO Expects Business Travel to Return to Pre-Pandemic Levels, Despite Current Low Demand

The Chief Executive of Air France- KLM Group, Ben Smith, believes that business travel is set to return despite the interest declining and the changes that the business travel market was forced to go through due to the pandemic, SchengenVisaInfo.com reports.

While talking at the Paris Air Forum this week, Smith was optimistic that business travel would return, possibly to the same levels as pre-pandemic.

“I’m very confident that business travel, however you define it, will return to the same levels that we had in 2019 and will return to growth in a short or medium term,” Smith said.

According to the Air France-KLM CEO, although business is seen as a lucrative market for long haul operators, the company isn’t dependent on business travel as other European air carriers are.

“We are less exposed than some of the major European long-haul carriers. IAG is heavily dependent on business travel,” Smith added.

He noted that the company was fortunate since more than half of premium cabins customers were flying for leisure purposes rather than business travel purposes.

“One-third of our long-haul fleet have flexible business cabins that can be adjusted down to 50 per cent of what the full business cabin could be,” he said.

Although the company believes it is “flexible” on the business travel demand, Air France-KLM is looking forward to the full business travelling demand in an innovative alternative.

Since the pandemic occurred in 2020, business travel has hit rock bottom lows. Despite optimism that has arisen due to the vaccination campaign, different surveys revealed that business travellers are hesitant to resume travel frequencies similar to 2019 levels.

According to the European Climate Foundation survey conducted between December 2020 and January 2021, 40 per cent from a total of 1,414 business respondent travellers in Denmark, Germany, France, Spain, the Netherlands, Sweden, and the UK expect to fly less after the pandemic, despite the health restrictions being lifted entirely.

The widespread of online and video conferencing services across various industry sectors through platforms such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Skype and Google Meet has provided a convenient alternative which has affected the drop in flight capacity seen in 2020. The phenomenon had a negative impact on business travellers’, who started attending fewer business flights.

According to the European Organisation for Safety of Air Navigation, EUROCONTROL, air traffic across Europe has declined by 61 per cent in May 2021 compared to the pre-pandemic situation.

However, the Airports Council International Europe (ACI) has warned that the waiting queues can be long due to a high number of travellers during the summer season.

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