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Airlines count on business travelers to keep recovery going
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Airlines count on business travelers to keep recovery going

With summer vacations winding down, airlines are counting on the return of more business travelers to keep their pandemic recovery going into the fall.

Air travel in the United States, bolstered by huge numbers of tourists, has nearly recovered to pre-pandemic levels — even topping 2019 numbers over the Labor Day weekend.

Inflation — and especially this year’s sharp rise in airfares — raises concern about how long vacationers can afford to keep flying at their current pace. Airlines say they see no signs of a slowdown in leisure travel.

Business travel, however, remains about 25% to 30% below 2019 levels, according to airlines and outfits that track sales.

And it is not clear when — or if — road warriors will return to their old travel habits.

“The whole challenge for the industry is around the return of the corporate traveler, and whether he is going to come back in enough volume and frequency that is going to help these airlines,” says John Grant, an analyst with travel-data provider OAG.

The Global Business Travel Association recently predicted that corporate travel won’t fully return until mid-2026, 18 months later than the trade group had previously forecast.

Business travelers generally pay higher fares, so their absence has an outsized impact on airline revenue and profit…

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