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Airlines Say Tech Companies Driving Rebound in Business Travel

Business travel has reportedly caught up with the booming business that leisure travel has enjoyed over the past three years.

Three airlines that have released their first quarter results — DeltaUnited and Alaska Airlines — reported that corporate travel has rebounded, Reuters reported Friday (April 19).

Alaska said Thursday (April 19) that its business bookings were back to pre-pandemic levels, according to the report. Over the prior year, those bookings had been stuck at 75% of those levels.

When reporting their latest quarterly results, United said it had some of the biggest corporate bookings in its history, and Delta said it saw double-digit year-over-year gains in corporate sales, per the report.

Alaska attributed its gains to increased spending by tech companies, while United pointed to travel by companies in the professional services, tech and industrial sectors, the report said.

Executives from the airlines said companies were increasing their business travel because people have returned to offices and because clients are more willing to spend money on travel, as they believe the economic outlook is brighter, according to the report.

Shane Tackett, chief financial officer at Alaska, told Reuters that he expects demand for business travel to continue growing, because the spending by tech companies has not yet reached its earlier levels.

Delta said it has found that 90% of its corporate clients plan to travel as much or more during the current quarter, per the report.

Andrew Nocella, executive vice president and chief commercial officer at United, said Wednesday (April 17) during the company’s quarterly earnings call that corporate travel was strong both domestically and internationally.

“We saw, I think, nine of our top 10 corporate booking days this year, in our history,” Nocella said. “So, really, across the board.”

Ed Bastian, CEO at Delta, said April 10 during an earnings call that corporate accounts were returning to business travel, especially those in the technology, consumer services and financial services sectors.

“Business travel demand has taken another meaningful step forward this year with growth accelerating into the mid-teens over last year,” Bastian said.

In August, the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) and Visa said they expected global business travel expenditures to surpass pre-pandemic levels by 2024.

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