WASHINGTON, D.C. — For the first time since the pandemic began, bookings for business flights were higher than 2019 levels by the end of March 2022, according to Mastercard Economics Institute’s report “Travel 2022: Trends & Transitions.”
Trends are pointing upward especially for the airlines, which are seeing strong domestic restrictions loosened, according to the report. An uptick in international travel is being reported as well. In March of this year, cross-border flights were hitting pre-pandemic levels. Pent-up demand for traveling following borders being locked down during the pandemic is credited for this increase in bookings.
Seventy-four percent of travelers say they’re willing to book trips, even if they may have to cancel or change them in the future. In 2021, only 56% of travelers were willing to make those same plans, according to an American Express travel trends report from May of this year. 62% of the survey respondents said they plan on taking two to four trips in 2022, showing the desire to travel and plan trips is strong.
Now, bookings are up 35% from 2019, according to Forbes, with more people willing to travel internationally, both for business and leisure.
The quantity of business travel bookings is correlated to the markets’ labor forces. Markets with a large work-from-home labor force such as Canada, where roughly 15% fewer workers are going into the office, are seeing less bookings. Mexico and the Philippines, markets with a large labor force working in the office, have seen an increase in business flight bookings compared to 2019.
From a global perspective, there is expected to be 1.5 billion more flights in 2022 than 2021 if trends continue at the pace being observed now. The MasterCard report shows that the U.S., UK and Spain are the top international destinations for travelers.
Europe is going to see the biggest increase in flight bookings, with almost 550 million more flights expected to be taken in 2022 than 2021. The Asia Pacific region will see the next largest increase compared to 2021 numbers, which is around 430 million more flights. North America, including Mexico, is expected to see about 365 million more, while Latin America and the Caribbean will see about 120 million more, and the Middle East and Africa are expected to see about 115 million more.
Despite factors that could slow these trends, such as a new COVID variant and high inflation, the conclusion is that there is more cause to be optimistic going forward about the return of traveling than pessimistic, experts say.