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‘You don’t close a deal via Zoom’

news hour

  • Yuri Vugts

    editor Nieuwsuur

  • Yuri Vugts

    editor Nieuwsuur

Business flight bookings are well on their way to pre-corona levels, travel providers say news hour. The number of flight movements with private aircraft has not been that high even in years, according to figures from Dutch airports. At the beginning of this year, large companies said they were aiming for a structural halving of the number of business trips.

With most travel restrictions lifted worldwide, corporate travel providers are seeing small and medium-sized business (SME) employees in particular taking the plane again. Booking offices are seeing an upward trend in their sales and hope for a further decrease in restrictions in countries. Japan opened its borders this month, but a major trading country such as China is not yet without far-reaching measures such as a fourteen-day quarantine.

(Yet) no flying shame

Large companies previously said against news hour to fly less for the sake of sustainability. Some had the intention to reduce the number of flights by half. Travel providers are also seeing this development, but this is less important for SMEs.

“All our SME customers are actually traveling again as in 2019,” says Cees Bas of business travel agency eBusinesstravel. “We don’t notice much shame about flying. The train is still a limited alternative for short distances.”

A dinner with a lot of wine, that is customer loyalty.

Ruben Wansink, entrepreneur

The trade association for business travel providers says the market is at 85 percent from before the pandemic. “The large companies, multinationals, are expected to fly less,” said Odete Pimenta da Silva, director of trade association NATM for travel managers and business travel buyers in the corporate sector. “Travellers are becoming more aware and will consider per journey whether the journey is really in person must take place or that it can also be done virtually.” Aviation dome IATA foresees a full recovery before 2024.

40 flights a year

Travel providers are finding that sometimes SMEs really need to be physically in one place and that the promises of the video meetings have not been fulfilled. Ruben Wansink, who works in the maritime sector, sees that too. “This is a fairly traditional sector in which a lot is based on trust. That is also a dinner with too much wine, that is customer loyalty. That in turn results in more orders.”

In 2019 he made about 40 flights a year. Because of corona, it became considerably less after that, but since April he has boarded the plane seventeen times. “I do try to travel less, also for my own health and happiness. We look more critically at what we visit. The costs have also become much higher for travel and hotels. And at the moment traveling within Europe is no fun, with flight cancellations and airport chaos.”

How about a private jet?

Many entrepreneurs try to avoid the crowds with a private device. So much that booking offices can barely keep up with the number of requests. The wealthy group of people who have the opportunity to even purchase their own device are disappointed. “The market for new aircraft, but also for second-hand aircraft, is completely saturated. For example, a used aircraft has doubled in price,” said Secretary-General Athar Husain Khan of EBAA, the European trade association for business aviation.

“More and more people have become accustomed to the convenience, flexibility and availability of private aircraft since corona. You arrive at the airport literally fifteen minutes before departure, show your passport, get in and be in the air within a few minutes.”

There is a price tag attached to that. A return ticket to New York with a device for eight people costs an average of around 100,000 euros.

‘Disappointing’

Environmentalists denounce the increase in business air traffic. “It’s very disappointing,” said Dewi Zloch of Greenpeace. “It really can be done differently, more digitally. We have seen that recently. We call on companies not to get on that polluting plane every time.”

Khan points out that his industry uses sustainable fuel. “There is also increasing pressure on sustainability from our customers. It is this market where electric flying is just around the corner.” The sector says it wants to be completely CO2 neutral by 2050.

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