How business travelers have helped boost regional flights since the pandemic

The global health crisis has undoubtedly shaken the airline industry from head to toe. One market expected to suffer the most was business travel. Still, it is a segment within this field that has supported regional operations to maintain a high level of activity. Simple Flying recently spoke with ARC VP Global Sales, Marketing Operations and Customer Experience Steve Solomon about these passenger trends since the pandemic emerged.

Airline ticket sales by travel agents were $39.8 billion in 2021, up 69% year over year. Photo: Getty Images

Ticket transactions

ARC prides itself on being the industry leader in air travel distribution and intelligence, providing channel agonist tools and insights to help the travel community connect and evolve around the world. Notably, the company is a provider of airline settlement solutions, handling more than $97 billion in carrier-agency transactions in 2019.

The company has seen the average ticket price for fares fluctuate amid ever-changing market conditions. There was a notable drop in US economic domestic rates last summer, dropping 28% between July and September. However, there was some consistency heading into the new year.

an Alaska Airlines Boeing 737-800 flying en route
The number of domestic passenger journeys in the US increased by 116% to 9.2 million in 2021, while the number of international passenger flights increased by 79% to 4.1 million. Photo: Getty Images

Business is good

One department that has contributed to the stability of the domestic and regional airline industry is business travel. While business travel tries its best to adapt to the situation, SMEs have been the backbone in recent years.

“There is resilience through these variants and people are still looking for ways to travel safely. The small to medium-sized business segment has been on the move all along. It’s more regional travel. It is the manufacturer or distributor who has customers within a one or two hour flight radius. Those people have been on the air during the pandemic and just keep supply chains moving. They’ve traveled and you just have to do some research to see that,” Solomon told Simple Flying.

“In talking with corporate buyers, it was reassuring to see how much value and focus they have on the duty of care. They really took a lot of the lessons that came out of the pandemic to make sure their travel programs were really ready for the next stress. So a lot of plans and investments have been made for the buyer community during the pandemic to make sure their travel programs really work the way they want them to.”

Solomon notes that these companies are looking for new technology to invest in and make their programs more transparent and efficient for the traveling population. The continued investment in travel technology to support the market holds great promise for the rebuilding of the industry.

American Airlins Admirals Club New York LaGuardia Getty
Business lounges continue to open all over the continents. Photo: Getty Images

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Just a little while to go

Overall, despite the exciting trends, business agency channel transactions in 2021 were forecast to be 43% lower than the 2019 level. By the end of this year, the figure is expected to be 25% lower than in 2019. All in all, by the end of this year, the figure is expected to be 25% lower than in 2019. though current forecasts anticipate pre-pandemic channel levels from business bureaus by the end of 2026.

Nevertheless, the currently strong domestic markets will remain safe in 2022. Regions such as North America and Russia will continue to see robust activity in this area.

ARC concludes that as populations around the world are vaccinated, there will be increasingly flexible border rules. Unless new variants have a long-lasting effect on society, international markets such as North America to Europe will be much healthier this summer than last year. Overall, international travel will be aroused as the domestic segments were in 2021.

What do you think of the impact business travel has on regional travel? What do you think of the trends in passenger activity since the onset of the health crisis? Let us know what you think about the overall situation in the comments section.

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