Taking stock after the closing of airspace due to the volcano ash crisis
The airspace closing forced European business travelers to seek alternative means of transportation. Most travelers used trains and rental cars. During the entire week affected by the volcano ash, the number of purchased train tickets was consistently one third above average. The increase in rental car bookings was 17 percent higher. At the same time, hotel overnight stays rose by 19 percent. For restaurant meals, business travelers spent 15 percent more in the crisis week.
These are the results of the latest AirPlus Business Travel Index, carried out by the leading global travel payment provider AirPlus International based on the current business-travel figures for Europe.
As flights were grounded during the days of the ash cloud, cancellations of flight tickets went up sixfold as compared to the average. However, the temporary close-offs had only minor effects on the general booking behavior of European business travelers – volumes were approximately the same as normal. Changes were noted regarding the time periods before the actual trips took place: in the crisis week, bookings were made at much shorter notice. This was particularly the case with business-class travelers. On average, they booked their flights just about one week before the take-off. In comparison: on an annual average, business flights in business class are booked approximately 14 days in advance.
The exceptional situation during the ash-cloud also affected average prices for alternative means of transportation – as recorded in trains and rental cars. Business travelers rented 17 percent more cars, but paid 26 percent more. These figures reflect the short-term changes in usage behavior: above-average distances, longer rental periods and surcharges for one-way rentals. As a matter of course, business travelers also frequented gas stations more often and spent 18 percent more on gas.
In terms of train bookings, figures are similar: one-third more tickets and a plus in expenses of more than 50 percent. This shows that business travelers opted for trains as clear alternatives to air travel and covered comparably long routes by train. On 17, 19 and 21 April, they spent more money on train tickets than on any other day in 2010.
The fact that many travelers did not reach their destinations as planned is also reflected in the 20 percent increase in cash-withdrawal volumes. Taxi rides increased above average mainly on the first two days of closed-off airspace (15/16 April 2010). At the same time, higher spending for telecommunication services shows that many business travelers in Europe switched to virtual meetings and conference calls instead.
The AirPlus Business Travel Index is based on the evaluation of more than 100 million business-travel bookings per year carried out by over 33,000 companies worldwide.
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