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Short-haul accounted for larger share of business travel due to the pandemic – long-haul now catching up

Neu-Isenburg, June 10 2021

During the coronavirus pandemic, business travelers have limited themselves to shorter distances in particular, booking on much shorter notice. But the trend is already shifting.

The coronavirus pandemic has radically reshaped worldwide travel. For example, the second half of 2020 saw only about one-seventh as many business trips in Europe as the year before. Those who did travel did so for shorter distances, spent longer away from home, and booked their trips on much shorter notice than before the pandemic. All that is now changing. This is the result of an analysis of flight bookings by payment service provider AirPlus International.

For example, domestic flights accounted for 52.2 percent of all flights taken by European business travelers from July through December of 2020. More than one-third of these travelers (37.5 percent) stayed within Europe, with just one-tenth (10.3 percent) booking an intercontinental flight. A year before, 15.4 percent of trips were to the Americas, Asia, Africa, Australia or New Zealand, with just under half involving destinations within Europe. Only 39.2 percent were traveling domestically at that time. A similar picture emerges when only German business travelers are considered: Nearly 60 percent of those traveling in the second half of 2020 stayed within Germany, with only one in 13 (7.8 percent) taking intercontinental flights, while a year before, one in every eight business travelers (12.9 percent) took a long-haul flight, with less than half (49.1 percent) flying domestically.

chart with figures about business travel during pandemic

Advance booking times have also shifted considerably. The average time from booking to departure across Europe in the second half of 2019 was 23.5 days, a figure that shrank a year later to just 15.8 days (Germany: from 23.8 to 14.5). Rapid changes in infection numbers and entry and exit requirements necessitated booking on shorter notice. Business travelers also spent significantly longer away from home: In 2019, the average time between departure and return to a traveler’s home location was just 5.5 days, but that stretched to 9.2 days in 2020 – despite the shorter distances traveled (Germany: 8.6 days after 5.1 days the year before).

Demand for long-haul flights resuming in 2021

The trend has now shifted, however. Although Europe saw tighter restrictions again last winter due to rising case rates, some business travelers returned to taking longer trips anyway. Nearly one in five air travelers (18.4 percent) had an intercontinental itinerary. Business travelers also returned to booking longer in advance: 17.3 days before departure. They continued to spend longer away from home, though. Business trips lasted an average of 12.9 days in the first three months of this year. In Germany, companies also returned to sending their employees on longer trips: From January to March, nearly one in five (18.8 percent) flew intercontinentally, and the period from booking to departure was back to 15.3 days. Business travelers from Germany also returned to traveling over longer periods, however, namely 15.5 days on average.

The figures are the product of an analysis of the AirPlus Business Travel Index. AirPlus analyzed the bookings settled via the payment service provider from Germany, Austria and Switzerland, Belgium, France, the UK, Italy, and the Netherlands. AirPlus is a leading international provider of solutions in the area of corporate payment and especially business travel management.

About AirPlus International:

AirPlus International is a leading international provider of solutions in the corporate payment segment. 48,000 corporate customers rely on AirPlus when it comes to paying for and analyzing their business travel and other purchasing activities. The company’s products and services are marketed worldwide under the AirPlus International brand. AirPlus is an issuer under the UATP and Mastercard card schemes. The AirPlus company account is the most successful billing account within the UATP. For more information, visit

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