Only a third of business flyers expect to return to normal

Most business travellers expect to fly less than they did before the pandemic according to a poll published in the Guardian. The huge restrictions on air travel had no impact on productivity and one in five even said it had a positive impact. It shows that reductions in corporate air travel can be part of the new normal, says T&E.

The poll carried out by YouGov surveyed business travellers in the UK, Germany, France, Spain, the Netherlands, Sweden and Denmark. Overall 45% said they would be flying less often in future and 38% said their air travel would be about the same as before.

Andrew Murphy, aviation director at T&E, said: “The pandemic-induced drop in business travel, with more people getting used to doing business remotely, is one of the definitive social changes of the pandemic. The new normal will mean less corporate flying and the industry must adjust. But public funds should not be pumped into propping up existing business models. Now is the time to channel money into developing cleaner fuels and new plane designs, not subsidising what’s still the most carbon-intensive form of travel.”

This comes as data from T&E shows airline pollution plummeted by 64% last year after the pandemic nearly bankrupted the sector. The industry has been reliant on public bailouts, having received €36 billion so far.

The head of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) has urged governments that have already provided billions to the sector to provide new air ticket and route subsidies. But T&E  warned public money should not be used to promote polluting behaviour.

Murphy added: “Taxpayers who gave billions to save national carriers expect them to take a sustainable path to recovery. The industry can’t just take the cash and return to the record pollution seen before Covid.”

In a recent briefing, T&E said that regulators need to ensure that state-aid guidelines are reformed to require green and social conditionality as necessary preconditions to bailouts. Regulators need to be much more aggressive in putting forward measures which will reduce the climate impact of flying, it says. This means no new bailout being awarded without EU member states first agreeing to an aviation decarbonisation plan including better pricing of flying and the development of new fuels such as e-kerosene.