A 300,000-year view


Humans have been traders for more than 300,000 years. Archaeologists have found axe heads and obsidian, a hard glass formed in volcanoes that can be used for cutting, hundreds of miles from where it occurs naturally.

These first pre-historic business travellers had to avoid being eaten by sabre-tooth tigers or trampled by woolly mammoths to close deals. If this sounds grim, just wait until you are flying on airlines again.

In the past 12 months, business aviation demand – aircraft and charter – has been driven by individuals. But corporates will return.

“The growth has all been personal travel,” Patrick Gallagher, president of NetJets, told Corporate Jet Investor this week – after the fractional had its busiest weekend of the year. “But we have not seen companies giving back shares. In fact, we are seeing them add people to their list of travellers ready for business travel returns.”

International travel

Research by the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) shows that businesses are not ready yet. Its February survey shows that 76% of members – people who buy business travel for large organisations – still have travel bans. Some 89% of large business travel buyers have suspended international travel – partly due to border restrictions – and 64% have cut domestic travel.

Chad Anderson, president of Jetcraft, confirmed that most current US travel is for leisure or relocation between homes. “A lot of companies have controls against a lot of travel,” says Chad Anderson, president of Jetcraft. “Public companies, in particular, are limiting travel to day trips. So, there is travel still going on.” Anderson predicts the return of large-scale corporate flights in the second or third quarter of this year, based on information from Jetcraft’s public company clients.

The GBTA says that half of all employees want to get back on the road and see customers and industry colleagues. Just 17% of employees are unwilling to travel for business. This number falls again once they are vaccinated.

Once they are vaccinated

It also reports that 79% of business travellers say they would be ’very comfortable’ or ’comfortable’ travelling for business after receiving the Covid-19 vaccination. Hopefully, this will be in the third quarter of the year for most large businesses. Smaller companies may rebound first.

“The people who are going to start first are smaller businesses who need to go press the flesh to make something happen effectively. Those folks are going to need to travel,” said Joe Carfagna Jr, president and CEO of Leading Edge Aviation Solutions, on the CJI Town Hall this week.

“The first thing we are going to see is how underserved their need to travel is going to be by the airlines. That is not readily apparent yet, but just wait,” he says. “If it becomes apparent in the summer, we are going to see another upswing in the sales of airplanes.”

Zoom has been a great tool. But as pre-historic axe traders would tell you, nothing beats seeing your customers face-to-face. Even if you have to fly commercial.

It’s personal: “The growth has all been personal travel,” Patrick Gallagher, president of NetJets, told CJI. 


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