YouGov poll shows 45% of business travellers (in 7 European countries) planning to cut future flights
A YouGov poll surveyed business travellers in 7 European countries including the UK, in December 2020 and January 2021. It found overall 45% said they would be flying less often in future – when Covid restrictions end – and 38% said their air travel would be about the same as before. The reduction would be because of videoconferencing. The reduction in the need to take business flights and travel abroad had been seen as positive by 20% of business flyers, and it had not negatively affected their work life or productivity. Business fliers tend to fly far more often than most holidaymakers, with 10% of those in the poll taking more than 10 flights in the year up to the first lockdown in March 2020. Business passengers provide a huge part of legacy airline income, so without them, the price of air tickets would have to rise. Carbon emissions from aviation were growing at 5.7% a year before the pandemic, despite many countries committing to cut all emissions to net zero by 2050 to tackle the climate crisis. Green campaigners argue that the aviation shutdown provides an opportunity to put the sector on a sustainable trajectory. The poll was commissioned by the European Climate Foundation.
Business travellers planning to cut future flights, YouGov poll finds
Only a third of business flyers expect to return to same level of air travel as before coronavirus pandemic
By Damian Carrington Environment editor (The Guardian) @dpcarrington
Mon 12 Apr 2021
Most business travellers in the UK will take fewer flights than they used to, according to a poll, thanks to increased use of video conferencing. Only a third expected to return to the same level of flying as before the coronavirus pandemic, once travel restrictions are lifted.
The huge reduction in air travel caused by Covid-19 had no impact on the work life or productivity of the majority of the business flyers, the poll found, with one in five saying the shutdown had had a positive impact.
Carbon emissions from aviation were growing at 5.7% a year before the pandemic, despite many countries committing to cut all emissions to net zero by 2050 to tackle the climate crisis. Green campaigners argue that the aviation shutdown provides an opportunity to put the sector on a sustainable trajectory.
Business-class seats provide most of airlines’ revenues but result in more emissions than those in the economy cabin because of the greater space occupied by each passenger.
Business fliers also fly far more frequently than most holidaygoers, with 10% of those in the poll taking more than 10 flights in the year up to the first lockdown in March 2020. Bill Gates recently estimated that more than 50% of business travel would end as companies adopted online meetings and cut costs.
Campaigners also argue that frequent flying is an elite and unfair activity – a recent study showed that just 1% of the world’s population caused half of aviation’s carbon emissions in 2018. In September, the UK’s climate assembly showed people would support a levy on frequent flyers and in the new poll almost two-thirds of business fliers said the tax-free status of jet fuels should end.
“Flying for business meetings burns up time and money, as well as our climate,” said Alethea Warrington, of the climate action charity Possible. “What we need now is investment in affordable train travel, not unnecessary airport growth which threatens to crash the climate.”
Kingsmill Bond of the thinktank Carbon Tracker said: “European business travellers are adopting new ways of working, which means less travel. This reinforces our central observation that 2019 was the peak of the fossil fuel era.”
A spokesman for the International Air Transport Association, which represents the world’s airlines, said it was difficult to assess future demand while most borders remained in effect closed and with no clear timetable for reopening. “While business travel may take longer to recover than leisure travel, rather than speculate, our focus is on working with governments to establish benchmarks and timetables for reopening borders,” he said.
The poll surveyed business travellers in seven European countries including the UK and overall 45% said they would be flying less often in future and 38% said their air travel would be about the same as before.
YouGov surveyed 1,414 business travellers in the UK, Germany, France, Spain, the Netherlands, Sweden and Denmark in December 2020 and January 2021. The poll was commissioned by the European Climate Foundation.
Changed future for air travel with likely 20 -30% (or more) fall in business passengers
For airlines other than low-cost, business passengers – paying hugely more than those in economy class – have been vital for revenues. Business travel may have generated over 75% of airlines’ revenue on some international flights. Due to the huge rise in Zoom and other internet calls, due to the pandemic, there is very likely to be a fall in business air travel. Nobody knows how large this fall could be – perhaps 30% or more. Without the large income from premium business travellers, ticket prices would rise overall. Economy passengers would have to pay more. That could mean a reduction in the size of airlines. The growth in business travel had been slowing globally, according to the Global Business Travel Association. In the UK, the fourth-biggest economy in terms of business travel expenditure, for example, data from the Office for National Statistics shows that while international air travel for leisure increased 3.4% per year between 2000 and 2019, international business travel grew just 0.2% annually. Companies have been hit by Covid. One survey indicated m any will reduce discretionary spending such as travel even further in 2021.
Between about 20 and 35% of future business travel may never return, post Covid
A study by some travel experts looked into the various sorts of business travel, how much of the total they make up, and how likely they are to decline, with the change in behaviour after Covid. They see various categories: 1. Internal corporate purposes, the most likely to decline. They make up around 20% of business air travel, and might fall by 40 – 60%. 2. Commuting by air, about 5% of business travel; might fall by 40 – 60%. 3. Travel for external purposes will fall a bit. 4. Travel aimed at sales and securing clients, makes up 25% of total business travel is probably the most resilient, but might fall by 20%. 5. Travel to conventions and trade shows, comprise around 20% of all corporate travel, and could decline by 10 – 20%. The finding that as much as perhaps 35% of future business travel demand may disappear holds huge implications for legacy airlines, which depend on the segment for a large chunk of their revenues. Low cost airlines will be less affected. The longer the pandemic stretches on, the more firmly ingrained new work habits and technologies will become.