Skift Take

Plenty of doubters predicted business travel wouldn’t fully return, but recent surges suggest the wider industry could break past its pre-pandemic $1.4 trillion value.

United Airlines is continuing to see a recovery in corporate sales, as it upgrades its outlook for the second quarter.

United now expects total revenue per available seat mile to be up 23-25 percent from the same period in 2019, it said in a guidance update on Tuesday, compared to its prior forecast of a 17-percent increase.

This is despite predicting it will fly 14 percent less in the second quarter, compared to the same period in 2019.

Corporate travel was a $1.4 trillion industry before the pandemic, according to trade body the Global Business Travel Association. It may now be on track to exceed that, going by comments made by the airline’s executive vice president and chief commercial officer.

While consumer savings and pent-up demand were driving the leisure recovery, corporate travel was equally strong, according to Andrew Nocella.

“We feel the leisure part of this is really strong and will continue as far as the eye can see,” said at a Bank of America event on Tuesday. “The great part is the business part, which is continuing to bounce back rapidly here in the U.S. and across the Atlantic.”

However, a transpacific recovery was still “way off” due to ongoing Covid related restrictions in China and Japan. Before the pandemic it flew 10 to 11 flights daily to China. Today it’s about four flights a week.

Meanwhile, the world’s biggest corporate travel agency on Tuesday reported a 454 percent increase in total transaction value for this year’s first quarter, compared to 2021. American Express Global Business Travel posted transactions of $4.15 billion for the three months ended March 31, compared with $749 million in the prior year’s quarter.

Like United, the agency has adjusted its outlook, and has raised its full-year 2022 guidance to $1.75 billion in revenue, compared to $1.5 billion previously.

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Tags: amex gbt, business travel, corporate travel, gbta, transatlantic, united airlines

Photo credit: United's Polaris seats. United Airlines