First Class Air Travel Slowly Recovers As Covid Restrictions Relax – .

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First Class Air Travel Slowly Recovers As Covid Restrictions Relax – .


Free drinks, beds and even the luxury of traveling with fewer people in the event of a pandemic were not enough to keep passengers back in the more expensive airline seats when flights resumed.

The number of trips made in first class or business class, the so-called premium cabins, has recovered more slowly than economy class over the past year, according to data from the International Air Transport Association.

Premium class passenger travel is down 56% this summer compared to the same period in 2019, while economy class travel is down 46%, a trend that has remained constant over the past year.

The slow return of spending passengers is worrying for the major carriers of the network such as British Airways or Lufthansa, whose economic models are focused on business and first class cabins which generate a significant portion of their revenues.

The figures show that pent-up demand for leisure travel has been far greater than for business travel, where large companies were relied on to purchase the more expensive flexible tickets on important routes, such as between. London and New York. Business travel can generate up to 75% of airline revenue on some international flights, according to PwC.

The booming private jet market also shows that some travelers have given up on commercial planes altogether during the pandemic. The use of private jets is expected to increase by 5% this year compared to 2019, according to data from the US industrial group Honeywell.

The aviation industry on both sides of the Atlantic has long hoped that the full reopening of US borders, slated for November 8, will be the catalyst to get executives back in the air and many airlines have reported signs of return from business travel.

Airlines were bracing for a drop in business travel before the pandemic and were scrambling to encourage leisure travelers to afford more expensive cabins.

But vacationers would still be more price sensitive than travelers traveling on expense accounts, said John Strickland, aviation consultant.

“Even if you catch up with the volume on premium entertainment and fill the seats, your income will drop significantly. ”

Many airlines, including BA, Emirates and Singapore Airlines, have deployed premium economy cabins, which have become an unexpected cash cow over the past decade and can match or even exceed business and first-class profitability by square foot.

A handful, including United Airlines in the United States, have doubled the number of luxury cabins during the pandemic. The Chicago-based company is reconfiguring its existing fleet with more seats in First Class and Premium Economy Class.

Strickland said new innovations may be needed for the post-pandemic landscape, such as the ability to flexibly alter the layout of long-haul aircraft to meet changing customer demand.

“Premium traffic will not return completely to what it was before the pandemic,” he added.

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