“To get the global recovery going again business people have to fly,” said Pete Morris, chief economist for Ascend, a principal provider of data, analytics and advisory services to aerospace investors. “After the challenges of 2009 and 2010, travellers clearly feel now is the time to start rebuilding their businesses.”
The results of a recent survey of more than 380 corporate travelers from around the world supports this conclusion. Business passengers expect to see growth in corporate travel during 2011, predicting increases in both the number of flights taken and travel budgets.
According to Ascend’s annual global survey:
- Nearly half (49 percent) of those polled expect to fly more for business in 2011, compared to 35 percent in 2010 and just 10 percent having the same expectation in 2009.
Almost as many survey participants (48 percent) expect travel budgets to increase this year, compared to 28 percent in 2010 and only 9 percent the previous year.
A 5.5 percent increase in the number of business flights for 2011.
Only 8 percent of those surveyed expect travel budgets to decrease in 2011 compared to 20 percent last year. More than half (54 percent) of participating travelers expected corporate travel budgets to decrease in 2009.
All of this is good news for airlines since flight and budget growth are expected to move in step during 2011. What airlines might not want to hear is that a majority of the business travelers surveyed remain skeptical about the benefits of further air carrier consolidation. More than 70 percent indicate they believe further consolidation will lead to less competition between carriers and cause higher prices.
Airlines might also want to be concerned about what respondents, especially those in North America, indicated had gotten worse during the past two years. In fact, 70 percent of North American business travelers surveyed said airline on board service has declined over the last two years. The top three things participants reported as having worsened were: crowded planes, increased security queues and the decline in “on board” service. Respondents repeated concerns about all aspects of security processes, queues, delays and service levels in an open-ended response as well.
Although 40 percent of North American passengers, 20 percent of European passengers and 17 percent of Asia Pacific passengers polled indicated they felt “nothing” had improved during the last two years, so things have. When asked to identify what has improved, those surveyed recognized greater efficiency during check-in and pre-flight (49 percent), more choice of low cost airlines (26 percent) and more available cheaper fares (25 percent). They may not seem like much, but they are something, especially to road warriors expecting to spend more time on the road and in the air this year.
The number of passengers departing from Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport increased slightly (5.2 percent) in January 2011, the latest month for which data is available. More than 1.6 million travelers boarded a plane in January 2011 compared to slightly more than 1.5 million the previous January. International travelers repesented the largest increase, 11.7 percent or 108,515 departures, during the month. In addition, 100,000 more travelers arrived at Sky Harbor during January 2011 than in January 2010. The statistics do not indicate how many of these travelers were business or pleasure travelers, but it is possible that the increases predicted by the Ascend survey are already being seen in Arizona.