To accommodate a COVID-instigated trend in corporate travel for CEOs like Jerome Harris, airlines all over the world are rearranging schedules and adding additional flights. This trend involves doing away with single-day business trips in preference of longer stays.
After a pandemic-inspired review of his travel patterns, Sydney-based Harris decided to stop making laborious one-day trips to Melbourne or Brisbane, which involved four cab journeys, two flights, lengthy waits, and the possibility of delays.
Business flyers are taking lengthier journeys than they did before COVID-19, according to industry data, forcing airlines to change flight schedules. The single-day vacation option is being challenged as an industry norm by factors like environmental issues, the rising price of tickets, more aircraft cancellations due to personnel shortages, and a surge in internet videoconferencing.
Harris, who works for an infrastructure business, said it’s a commendable endeavour to devote a few days in a place and have time to interact with numerous persons and view multiple projects to save effort and carbon.
Corporate travel company CWT reported that as online meetings become more and more popular, the ratio of one-day local travel has decreased globally by more than 25% from 2019 levels.
Airlines must adapt to maximise income in economies from Australia to the United States. As more people travel for both business and pleasure, American Airlines, for instance, is expanding its midweek flight schedules. Many of these travellers are taking advantage of the increased ability to work remotely.
Speaking on an earnings call last month, Andrew Nocella, Chief Commercial Officer of United Airlines (UAL.O) said that Tuesdays and Wednesdays are not as depressing as they once were in a typical week.
The move is long-term for the airlines and hotels, as per Akshay Kapoor, head of Asia Pacific sales at corporate travel broker CWT.
Kapoor added the move away from day vacations and toward longer stays is going to stay as travellers are becoming more cost and environmentally cautious.
In the long run, this can result in hotels earning more money per available room.
According to Flight Centre Travel Group Ltd., the average duration of a local business tour in Australia grew from three days in 2019 to nearly four days in the third quarter of this year, during a time when airfares have surged (FLT.AX).
Melissa Elf, managing director of Australia and New Zealand at Flight Centre Corporate, claimed this could be because customers are paying more and taking full advantage of staying longer.
Increased airfares, according to Qantas Airways Ltd (QAN.AX) and Virgin Australia, have thus far offset any profit impact from less business visits.
However, the changing nature of travel is starting to show in airline itineraries, where planes on well-travelled business routes have been decreasing proportionately to routes that are more popular with leisure travellers.
Travel data company OAG showed that Sydney-Melbourne is currently the fifth busiest local route in the globe, down from second in 2019.
OAG further illustrated the busiest domestic line in North America in 2019—the business-heavy Los Angeles–San Francisco route—is now seventh place. Las Vegas-Los Angeles as well as Honolulu-Maui, which are dominated by leisure, have taken their place at the top.
Before the epidemic, Texas-based human resources professional Ajit Chouhan would make one-day work excursions to San Francisco at average once per month. However, he now uses Microsoft Teams or Zoom for shorter meetings, citing how convenient and effective the online choices are.
The one-day trip is undoubtedly still very much alive, especially when businesses are eager to sign up new clients in person, according to Drew Crawley, Chief Operating Officer of U.S. Express Global Business Travel.
The percentage differs by industry and is getting smaller. According to CWT data, 4% of domestic company visits worldwide were one-day excursions in 2019 compared to 3% today.
With airlines increasing capacity while running low on employees, Sydney-based Harris has found that avoiding same-day visits has also enabled him to escape some of the headaches associated with travel mayhem.