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Crossroads in business travel

It has been well over a year since I have written anything about anything, let alone, about travel.


Fact of the matter is, that I have been rather too busy and then, well, I forgot that I even had the opportunity of sharing my thoughts here with you all.


Of course, the recent event has been the complete standstill within travel, during the present pandemic. It has been so long since I touched the hub of the blue screen that sometimes, I worry that I am likely to forget how my trusty Sabre set works!


The question on everyone's mind is when will travel return and more importantly, when will business travel return to anything like what used to pass for "normal".


Fact of the matter is, I do not believe it will, at least. not in the drop of a hat sense that was possible BC (Before Covid). That people have been encouraged to work from home has meant that people have found out that, well.... they can work from home. This covers the sitting down and actual working situation. It does not cover the meetings side of things. We have seen the competition between Zoom and Teams but to my mind, somehow none of these systems somehow "cut the mustard" compared to real life interactions; especially where a tangible object needs to be worked upon or even seen or where you wish to conclude a contract and really want to see, as they say "the whites of the eyes". You cannot really design, say, a car unless you can see the potential results in the flesh. There are times where only face-to-face will do. For this reason, I believe that business travel will return.


Before everything in travel went belly-up, there was much talk about "far too many aircraft chasing far too few passengers". Airports were full of people paying $30 to fly pretty much anywhere and as I have always said, an airport full of people paying $3,000 a head is a success. An airport full of people paying $30 a head is an environmental disaster area.


So, my belief is that there will be a resetting of bsuiness travel. The value of online meeting software will be realised and actual travel will be only where such is really neccessary, rather than going halfway across the planet simply because it seemed like a good idea at the time. What can be accomplished on Zoom or Teams will be accomplished that way, what cannot, will be the new form of business travel.


Of course, many organisations, realising how much has come off their travel budget and has now manifested itself as profit on the bottom line, will not wish to return to the high cost travel budget that seemed inescapable BC.


Given this, airlines will need to rethink how they present themselves to the business community. Business travel is profit though when business travel reduces and so too, profit, what can airlines do to rebalance their income? The most obvious answer is to better share the cost burden of travel for the individual. Rather than having a (relatively) few high-profit, high-rollers at the sharp end and making up the difference by nickel-and-diming those down the back, the overall cost of ticket could be shared out more equally between cabin types. Smaller aircraft and a reduced frequency. Quality rather than quantity.


In general, though, airline exectuives are not quite the sharpest for original thought and Covid has jolted many out of their "its always been done this way" philosophy.


It will not be a matter of tinkering around the edges of travel, playing with technology and squeezing a few more miles out of a gallon of fuel; what will come next demands a radical rethink of the whole of business travel and how to make flying, rather than a Zoom meeting more attractive and above all, affordable.







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© 2018 Murray Harrold

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