Companies spending £2.9bn less on air travel as demand for corporate flights declines

Businesses are spending almost £3bn less on corporate air travel as the demand for flights for business purposes has fallen by 29%, new research shows.

The New Economics Foundation has found the number of flights made for business purposes is some 3.9 million less than pre-pandemic levels in 2019.

This comes as data from the Office for National Statistics shows companies spent £2.9bn less on air travel in 2023, compared with 2019, despite real GDP growth of 1.8%.

Research published by NEF last year showed that business use of air travel had collapsed in the last decade.

Despite huge growth in passenger numbers between 2015 and 2019, the market-share of business passengers in 2022 was half of what it was in 2013. Meanwhile, the research found that growth in leisure air travel had little wider economic benefit.

The data comes as a number of airports have begun seeking to expand their capacity including at Luton, Gatwick, and London City Airports.

“The aviation industry can see what is happening here, with concern about their impact on the climate growing, they are trying hard to convince people that more air travel is essential to economic growth. But their analysis is out-of-date," NEF senior economist, Alex Chapman said.

“Business use of air travel peaked in 2007 and has fallen further since the pandemic. Today, growth causes major damage to our climate while benefiting only a tiny group of airport owners and wealthy frequent flyers."

The move away from air travel for business purposes has in part been driven by environmental concerns, yet NEF has argued that stronger government action is still needed to reduce aviation emissions.

“The next UK government should take a fresh look at its approach to travel and tourism, and focus on re-invigorating the UK’s neglected domestic tourism economy and coastal areas and the zero-carbon public transport network which will support them," Chapman added.

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