Air fares surge while in-person meetings drive boom in business trips

in-person meetings

Passenger numbers are bouncing back strongly this year, with Australia’s domestic travel industry headed for a full recovery driven in part by a return to in-person meetings.

Business travellers have more than doubled the length of their trips this year compared with 2019, with the most significant extension being international trips, followed by domestic, then Trans-Tasman, according to data by Corporate Traveller.

Tom Walley, global managing director at Corporate Traveller, says there are many reasons behind extended trips this year.

“With most restrictions removed, more businesses are meeting with interstate and international stakeholders face-to-face. After two years of virtual meetings, face-to-face meetings are likely increasing in frequency,” he said.

“Executives may also be reuniting with teams for the first time since 2019 and engaging in lengthy operational and strategy meetings in person. Some businesses are also rebuilding again to focus on their growth and conducting longer sales and recruitment-based trips.”

In April, Gold Coast routes in particular saw significant numbers: the Canberra-Gold Coast route saw a 193 per cent increase on pre-pandemic levels and flights between the Gold Coast, Melbourne, Adelaide, and Sydney also eclipsed pre-pandemic numbers.

“Some businesses have experienced, or may be anticipating, delays and cancellations, and may be choosing to extend trips to make up for any lost time,” Walley said.

“Businesses will likely continue increasing the length of their trips to account for potential delays and other disruptions. International flight capacity has been slower to return than domestic and I expect business trips will increase by around one to two days further over the next year.”

The increase in business trips has been matched by strong leisure demand putting the squeeze on airlines who have been hammered by the double whammy of staffing shortages and constrained flight numbers.

The effect has been a surge in airfares, across both domestic and international routes.

International airfares have rocketed by up to 47 per cent on some routes in the last two months, according to travel website KAYAK, while some domestic airfares have almost doubled since May.

A Flight Centre spokesperson told News Corp that the rising fares were likely to stabilise once the airlines get their flight capacity back to normal to meet demand.

“The good news is that we believe fares will start to normalise as supply increases, which will gradually happen over the next few months,” the Flight Centre spokesperson said.