By Benjamin Pham
Brussels Airlines Anticipates Growth In Corporate Travel
Throughout the span of the ongoing Covid-19 crisis, the airline industry continues to experience the ebb and flow of passenger travel demand. Initially, the major carriers encountered a sharp decline in travel demand and load factors at the start of the ordeal. Even so, in response to the significant push for vaccinations, international borders reopened and travel restrictions were eased, causing a substantial surge in leisure travel demand. However, business travel demand was virtually non-existent as many companies shifted and transitioned towards virtual meetings and worked from home. While signs show that business travel may not experience a full and complete recovery, corporate travel is gradually growing and rebounding as Brussels Airlines’ operations suggest.
Corporate travel bookings experienced a weekly increase of between 30 to 40 percent out of Belgium. The Belgian flag carrier plans to continue flying to popular corporate hotspots across Europe such as Italy, Spain, Austria, Switzerland and Germany, among several other countries where business travel involving political institutions, universities and the production industry are one of the major markets.
In addition, recently the U.S. government under the Biden administration announced the end of the entry travel ban and restrictions for Europeans and other foreign nationals to welcome those who are vaccinated. The Star Alliance carrier intends to operate four weekly flights to New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, in response to the expected rise in business travel to the U.S., as businesses are anticipated to ease their travel policies, ultimately allowing corporate travel to potentially not be forgotten.
As the U.S. reopens, several major carriers such as British Airways, Lufthansa, Air France, Delta, American and United are all eager to reclaim as much of the remaining market for transatlantic travel. Meanwhile, Brussels Airlines anticipates travel to the U.S. will rise, but Belgium’s largest airline, which is also a part of the Lufthansa Group, has not announced any flight schedules yet. However, Lufthansa plans to continue flying more than 200 weekly flights to 17 destinations in its U.S. route network.
Carsten Spohr, CEO Deutsche Lufthansa AG said, “The removal of travel restrictions to the USA is not only a major step out of the crisis for our airlines but also terrific news for the transatlantic partnership. As of November, families and friends will finally be able to see each other again, and business partners will be able to re-establish and deepen relationships in person. Together with the decided capital increase for the early repayment of the state stabilization funding, there have been two major course-setting events within 24 hours on our way out of the crisis and for the sustainable success of Lufthansa.”
Clearly, Brussels Airlines recognizes the rise and re-emergence of business travel and prepares to operate flights to accommodate the market for corporate travelers. The observation will play a large role in allowing the carrier to operate transatlantic and intra-European flights, as it focuses on a different type of traveler, compared to that of the leisure traveler or tourist. However, it is essential for the airline to monitor and adapt to the effects of the COVID-19 ordeal, as the airline can have the opportunity to adjust its business model, in favor of one that does not solely stimulate business travel.