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Business travel: China overtakes India among top destinations for Germans

Neu-Isenburg, August 23, 2023

As before the pandemic, China was once again the second most popular long-distance destination for German companies in the first half of the year – even if the number of tickets sold still lags well behind pre-Covid levels. This is shown by an evaluation of corporate payment expert AirPlus International.

In the few months after China opened its borders, the country has regained its previous position in the rankings as a destination for German business travelers: In the first half of the year, China ranked second among long-haul destinations after the USA, relegating India to third place. This is shown by the AirPlus Business Travel Index, an evaluation of air ticket transactions processed via AirPlus.

Last year, China had slipped to 30th place in the long-distance ranking, after the country had occupied the classic second place behind the USA before the corona pandemic. India had taken over this position in the meantime. Nevertheless, the total number of China tickets sold is still well below the level of 2019 (-72 percent). India, on the other hand, is already almost back to the same level of demand as before the pandemic (-9 percent).

Overall, spending by German companies on airline tickets increased by 56 percent between January and June compared with the same period last year.

Prices for airline tickets up again

Ticket prices recently increased again: Business class tickets cost an average of 3635 euros in June, around four percent more than in January. For economy class tickets, the increase was 15 percent and the average price in June was 540 euros.

Business travel trends: longer trips, more business class, workation

The habits of business travelers have changed permanently since the pandemic, as evidenced once again by the evaluation of the first half of the year compared to the same period in 2019:

  • Proportionally, employees of German companies flew business class more often (13.7 percent vs. 9.2 percent) and economy less often (84.9 percent vs. 90 percent)
  • There were fewer domestic flights (35.1 percent vs. 49 percent), but more trips within Europe (50.2 percent vs. 38.6 percent)
  • Companies booked tickets earlier (26.6 vs. 24 days)
  • More trips started on a weekend (15.4 percent vs. 12.5 percent) – an indication of the "bleisure"/"workation" trend, the combination of a private and a business trip
  • Trips were longer on average (5.8 vs. 5 days), while the share of one-day trips decreased (7.1 percent vs. 16.5 percent)

Germany as a business travel destination: Number one in Europe

For European business travelers*, Germany was clearly the most popular destination in the first half of the year – every fifth trip headed for a German airport. Most flights were bound for Frankfurt, followed by Munich and Hamburg.

Oliver Wagner, CEO of AirPlus, on the latest results of the AirPlus Business Travel Index:
"German business travelers again boarded planes more frequently in the first half of the year to attend personal meetings. In doing so, companies were quite willing to pay higher costs for tickets. In addition, our evaluation shows that travelers have sustainably changed their habits compared to 2019 and that this development is not a flash in the pan. For example, companies are aligning themselves more sustainably and, among other things, making their employees more aware of taking multiple meetings within a longer trip. In turn, employees are enjoying their new flexibility to work from different locations and are combining personal and business travel more often."

*Source: Evaluation of AirPlus International's core European markets (Germany, Switzerland, United Kingdom, Belgium, Netherlands, France, Italy).

About AirPlus International:

AirPlus International is a leading international provider of corporate payment solutions. 53,000 corporate customers rely on AirPlus for the payment and evaluation of their business trips and other purchasing services. The products and services are marketed worldwide under the AirPlus International brand. AirPlus is an issuer of 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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