Business travel spend increases among trends for 2022

With the air passenger industry showing clear signs of recovery, aviation data specialist Cirium has identified several trends it expects to see in 2022.

Business travel is expected to accelerate in 2022 driven by an increase in events and meetings, according to Cirium’s CEO Jeremy Bowen, with companies already having increased their business travel spend.

He pointed to Global Business Travel Association figures which revealed that business travel spending increased 21 per cent in 2021 and said the trend is expected to continue. GBTA has also predicted annual business travel spend will surpass pre-pandemic levels by the end of 2024.

Cirium also revealed a return to pre-pandemic levels of domestic passenger traffic worldwide in 2022 with international traffic set to hit 66 per cent of pre-pandemic levels.

“There was little international traffic until mid-2021, when intra-European travel demand opened, facilitated by the EU Digital Covid-19 Certificate. Since then, there has been a steady improvement, as well as in international demand to and from North America,” said Bowen.

However, September international passenger numbers were still down 62 per cent compared to 2019. Cirium’s baseline scenario for 2022 is one of continued border openings, as countries achieve vaccination rates of 70 per cent or more for the total population. China remains an unknown, as there is currently no sign of a change to its Covid elimination strategy. 

“International traffic is made up of many distinct regional flows, but we expect a significant increase in long-haul travel in the second half of 2022 and predict that by the end of 2022 international passenger traffic will be down around 25 to 30 per cent compared to 2019.”

A third trend highlighted by Bowen is around airlines relying on partnerships to bring passengers to secondary markets.

He pointed to Delta Air Lines as an example, with the carrier scheduled to serve 72 of its US to Europe markets in 2022 compared to 88 in 2019 and instead rely on airlines such as Air France and KLM to fill the gaps via their European hubs.

Sustainability is also mentioned, with an increase in CO2 emissions expected over the year as flights return to service, according to Bowen.

However, more efficient aircraft are being introduced and the industry is expected to scrutinise the “actual fuel burn of flights” as well as make use of sustainable aviation fuel and offsetting initiatives.

Further trends highlighted in the report focus on cargo and aircraft valuations.

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