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Business travel ‘won’t return to pre-pandemic levels’ says airline chief

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Business travel will not return to pre-pandemic levels, the chief executive of a UK airline has said.

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Speaking at the Airlines 2021 conference, Loganair boss Jonathan Hinkles, said: “We are looking at a much lower level of business travel. The market will be smaller overall.

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“We’ve all moved on to Zoom or Teams and a proportion of that is going to stick.”

He acknowledged that a certain amount of business will still have to be done in person, but maintained that “a proportion of the services sector is not going to revert back to the [business travel] ethos it had”.

“It’s not going to come back. You are looking at a smaller business travel sector,” Hinkles added.

“Do we see a lift in the domestic leisure market compensating for that? Probably not. We’ll probably see a smaller domestic market. That is what we are planning our schedule for.”

The Scottish airline serves more than 40 routes across the UK, Republic of Ireland and Norway.

Last month, Business Travel Association data revealed that the UK lost £4.76bn in GDP in the last week of September, with business travel bookings having crept up to 53.24 per ent of pre-pandemic levels.

Meanwhile, Global Business Travel Association figures last week showed that the UK’s business travel recovery trailed most other markets, with the business travel market expected to have shrunk by 17 per cent in 2021 compared with 2020.

EasyJet’s chief commercial officer Sophie Dekkers disagreed with Hinkles’ comments, saying at the same event that the budget airline’s proportion of business traffic had been “higher during Covid than pre-Covid”.

“Our international and inbound traffic has been softer, but our business passenger levels in September [2021] were as high as in February 2020,” she insisted.

“People will still be commuting, but we might see the commute change from a Sunday night/Monday morning and Thursday/Friday night. We may see a flattening across the week.”

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