Skip to main content

Here's Why Your Boss May Reject Your Business Travel Request

People are taking vacations again, but a once dominant travel sector is struggling to recover.

Now that vaccines are readily available and President Joe Biden has declared that the pandemic is officially over, people are flying again. But they’re really not happy about it.

The research firm J.D. Power found that last year, when the airline industry first started to cautiously rebound, consumer satisfaction with airports reached an all-time high. But this was very likely both because of a relatively smaller sample size and that so many people were happy to fly again that they were willing to overlook a lot of what has become headache-inducing about modern airfare travel.

J.D. Power  (JD) - Get Free Report has found that this year, global passenger levels are nearly back up to 91% of pre-pandemic levels. 

Customer satisfaction has dropped sharply, 25 points on a 1,000-point scale, to 777, as more people have returned to airports, for reasons ranging from an increase in flight cancellations and delays to inflation-driven increases in the cost of airport food.

But while airlines are aware that customers aren’t happy, and that the Biden Administration might try to right the ship with proposals that airlines likely won’t care for, at least people are flying again.

But an additional survey by J.D. Power has revealed that while people are flying again, traveling for business (be it for in-person meetings or industry conferences), has been lagging behind and recovering at nearly the rate of traveling for pleasure. 

Is Traveling for Business on the Way Out?

J.D. Power’s research has found that many travelers doubt that travel levels will increase dramatically from where they are now, and that “a strong majority of executives believe their companies will spend less in the next six months compared to the same period in 2019, for instance, due to things like fewer trips overall or fewer employees sent when there is a trip scheduled,” according to their data.

Overall, business travel has returned to “about 81% of 2019 levels,” notes Managing Director Michael Taylor. “83% was our prediction for this quarter, we’ll see how well we did in a few weeks and add a predication for Q4.”

CHART Business Travel JS 092822

Fears of recession and the rising costs of air tickets from inflation play a factor in the decline of business travel. But overall, the main reason is that many of us have gotten so used to working at home that two-thirds of employees would rather find a new job than go back to the pre-pandemic status quo. If employees feel they can get work done from home and don’t feel like braving traffic to return to the office, why would they feel they need to get on a plane?

So have services like Zoom (ZM) - Get Free Report and Slack made the business trip redundant? Taylor has his doubts.

“But will people be meeting exclusively in the 'Metaverse' rather than in person? I do not think that will happen,” he says. “There is too much information to be gathered in face-to-face meetings, spoken and unspoken, to be replaced completely by virtual ‘reality.’”

Business Travel Lead JS 092822

So is This It for Business Travel?

Back in the heady pre-pandemic days three years ago, airlines could rely on the extra income from people whose jobs entailed a great deal of travel, and who had come to the realization that if they were going to spend a chunk of their lives on the road, they could splurge to make it a more comfortable experience. 

But if airlines want this sector to return, Taylor thinks it’s their duty to make it a more appealing option, because frequent delays and other headaches are enough to make anyone stick to Zoom.

Airlines, Taylor says, must “create more of a “living room” experience for travelers, one that “makes travelers feel valued as patrons of the airlines, and makes people feel like individuals rather than cattle.”

Because while it’s hard to argue with the convenience, Taylor insists there is still something to be said for the occasional in-person meeting. 

“Millenia of evolution in mankind has created an awareness that can’t be described with words on a page or pixels on a screen,” he says. “People will still find advantages in meeting in-person rather than online.”