European business travellers say set to fly less after COVID-19

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Four in 10 European business travellers plan to fly less after COVID-19 travel restrictions are fully lifted, a survey showed on Monday, with many intending to stick to video conferences.

Changing habits during the pandemic and worries over climate change are likely to reduce business flights in the long term, suggested the YouGov poll for the philanthropic group European Climate Foundation, which supports a goal of zero emissions.

“Flying for business meetings burns up time and money, as well as our climate,” said Alethea Warrington, campaigner at climate action charity Possible, which was not involved in the poll.

“This polling shows that after a year of quick and easy virtual meetings, travellers aren’t planning to go back to business as usual.”

Looking ahead, 40% of some 1,400 poll respondents said they would take fewer business flights when restrictions were lifted entirely, 38% would return to the same frequency, 13% would take more flights and 5% said they would stop flying for business.

The aviation industry has been hammered by new coronavirus restrictions, and is also coming under increasing pressure from climate campaigners to reduce its carbon footprint. Airline emissions, 2.5% of the global total, are set to triple by 2050.

After companies banned or severely restricted movements to protect staff and save on costs, flight bookings are starting to pick up with vaccine rollouts, but leading industry groups expect business travel globally to take years to recover.

Restrictions on air travel had no effect on job productivity for 55% of respondents – who were based in Britain, Denmark, Spain, France, the Netherlands, Sweden, and Germany – and worsened it for 26% and improved productivity for 19%.

With the rise in the use of video call software such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams over the last year, 42% of business travellers said they would fly less, 42% would fly just as often and 11% would fly more.

Four in 10 said their company was actively trying to reduce its emissions from air travel, while almost six in 10 said they were willing to downgrade from first or business class to economy to reduce their climate impact.

Main Photo: A traveller in the international arrival area of Heathrow Airport near London, Britain. EPA-EFE/NEIL HALL

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