Business travel after Labor Day will not go as usual this year, thanks to a resurgence of COVID-19 cases and postponed office reopens.
Business travel is a boon to the airline industry, but this year many companies are putting their travel plans on hold because their offices are no return yet to their usual routines.
“Delaying the return to the office has an effect on business travel, ”Philip Baggaley, chief transportation company credit analyst for Standard & Poor’s, told CNN Business. “It’s more difficult to organize a trip where you see a group of different customers. And the company’s travel policy may become more cautious.
Much of the idea had been to return to the sky as usual. At national scale vaccine deployment many believed the pandemic would soon be in the rearview mirror. This, of course, was not the case as new, more infectious strains of COVID-19 began to plague the world.
A July survey by the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) found that 68% of GBTA members plan to return to business travel at some point in the next few months. That number fell to just 35% in August.
“It’s a pretty dramatic change of plan,” Adam Sacks, president of Tourism Economics, told CNN Business. “We expected to see some traction from business travel in the fall. Now we don’t know when that will happen.
Another reason for the slowdown in business travel is that conferences and conventions are going virtual or being canceled entirely due to the resurgence of COVID-19.
Events such as National Rifle Association Annual Meeting in Texas and the Specialty Food Association’s Fancy Food Show in New York City are common drivers of business travel. Not this year, however.
Airlines, in general, have seen better days of late. Leisure travel in summer bounced back favorably this year, with the TSA saying it screened 77% more passengers between Memorial Day weekend and Labor Day than during the same period in 2020.