business flights return to pre-pandemic levels

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business flights return to pre-pandemic levels

Time flies, never better said. It has been more than two years since the first confinements by Covid-19 began. The world stopped by a global pandemic and companies and workers adapting by force to teleworking. Time to rethink our way of working and moving around. The future belongs to remote meetings, some said. Sure?


Shame. Already in 2019, social movements to protect the environment pointed to flights as a fundamental part of global warming. Driven largely by Greta Thunberg, the “flygskam” was born, or the shame of taking a plane because of its high polluting emissions.

So, the focus was on low-haul flights, where the train could become an alternative to value. In fact, much of Europe is promoting train mobility to reduce its polluting emissions.

Inflection. The appearance of Covid-19 and its spread throughout the world completely changed the way many companies work. Forced by the situation, a good number of business trips had to be suspended indefinitely. It was time to rethink everything, for analysts, experts (including Bill Gates) and futurologists who announced that teleworking would reduce these meetings and Zoom, Teams or Slack would reign over everything and everyone.

A Bloomberg survey from August 2021 found that, of 45 European, Asian and American companies asked, 84% stated that travel expenses would be reduced in the coming years. Specifically, they expected a reduction of between 20 and 40% in this type of expense. Hyundai, for example, explained to us that virtual reality has helped them a lot over the last two and a half years.

the usual normal. Two years later, no shame about air travel, no cost reduction. It seems that the new normal will be the usual normal. Air France-KLM announced a few days ago that they will work this summer at 90% of the capacity they used in 2019. And now we know that the company has invested 180 million euros in the renovation of a dozen Boeing 777-300, expanding the number of executive seats.

“It’s a lot of corporate team events and business negotiations. You can’t do everything on Zoom,” said Anne Rigail, CEO of Air France. Luis Dupuy, general director for American Express (AMEX) Global Business Travel in Spain, points in the same vein in an interview with Cinco Días, assuring that in 2023 the same volume of business flights will be reached as in 2019.

also in tourism. Despite the obvious cost savings, Dupuy points to the desire that workers themselves have to travel as one of the keys. “There is a need to see clients and colleagues from other countries, a desire to travel,” he says in the aforementioned interview.

This need to travel seems to be confirmed in tourism as well. Aeromexico already has 43% more flights to Mexico from Madrid than in 2019. The number of seats to fly to the United Arab Emirates from the capital has grown to 9,000 seats since last fall. And the United States has new routes that have expanded the number of flights and destinations.

high contamination. Something that the flygskam movement pointed to directly and that the new ways of working seemed to have solved (at least in part) is the high level of pollution emitted by planes. In fact, already in November 2020 it was estimated as responsible for 2.5% of CO2 polluting emissions worldwide.

Europe has taken the initiative in recent months, with new taxes, more expensive tickets and obstacles to short flights. The alternative may be the train, 43 times less polluting, but if environmental awareness does not permeate society and facilities are maintained for airlines, the demand for flights will return to what it was before the pandemic.

Photo | L.Filipe C.Sousa

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