Air New Zealand Ltd on Tuesday reported domestic business travel has returned to 90 percent of pre-pandemic levels, bucking a downward trend in many other countries with more severe Covid-19 outbreaks.

Chief customer and sales officer Leanne Geraghty said the airline was “blown away” by the new data, noting it had initially hoped to return to 70 percent of pre-pandemic levels in 2022.

“To recover to near normal levels this quickly really reinforces the strength of our domestic network and the desire of Kiwis to reconnect in person,” she said in a statement.

The rebound is striking, given leading industry groups expect business travel globally to take years to recover after companies banned or severely restricted movements in an effort to protect staff and save on costs, turning instead to video-conferencing.

The Global Business Travel Association earlier this month released a poll of companies from the U.S., Europe and Latin America that 69 percent had suspended most or all domestic business travel, up 5 percentage points from February.

In contrast, Air New Zealand has added more seats, more business-timed flights and brought on more crew to meet increased demand. It has also reduced its top fares, meaning customers booking at short notice will pay up to $70 less per seat, the airline said.

New Zealand has reported just 2,493 confirmed Covid-19 cases and 26 deaths since the start of the pandemic, far fewer than most other developed nations.

Don Braid, group managing director of New Zealand logistics group Mainfreight, said the ability to return to face-to-face meetings with customers had been positive for business.

(Reporting by Jamie Freed in Sydney; editing by Jane Wardell)

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Photo Credit: Air New Zealand has added more seats, more business-timed flights and brought on more crew to meet increased demand for corporate travel. Will Waters / Unsplash