Business and first class travel among Australian corporates grew by 43 per cent in 2023 according to new data from Flight Centre Travel Group’s flagship corporate divisions, FCM Travel and Corporate Traveller.
Business class fares made up 5.6 per cent of all corporate bookings in 2023, up from four per cent in 2022. first class passengers made up three per cent of business travel bookings, up from two per cent over the same period.
Conversely, economy and premium economy cabin class dropped in popularity among corporate travellers by 2.4 per cent, in a sign that more travellers were prioritising comfort, wellbeing and status, despite airfares rising across all classes in 2023.
Global FCM COO/Flight Centre Corporate MD for ANZ, Melissa Elf, said 8.6 per cent of corporates booking Business or First Class travel was a sign of healthy business activity.
“Growing popularity at the front end of the plane reflects growth and stability across Australian businesses,” Elf said.
“This data comes in a period of economic uncertainty, and it goes to show that despite many businesses feeling the pinch of the cost of doing business, travel continues to be a necessity for business success and survival.
“Studies show that business travel correlates to economic growth, so as economists predict the flattening of inflation, we can expect to see activity in corporate travel build.”
Elf said while economy had seen fluctuations in the booking share over the last two years, premium economy was the biggest loser of the cabin classes.
“Premium economy made up 6.5 per cent of the cabin class share in the first half of 2022. In the second half of 2023 it was down to four per cent.”
Elf said the fast pace of business travel sometimes took its toll on travellers, so there was a focus on health, wellbeing and maintaining productivity when travelling for work.
“Many of our corporate travellers are making the decision to book business or first class travel so they can get a decent sleep if they’re travelling through the night or continue to work productively if they’re travelling through the day. It can also mean more nutritious meals, and less time lost through the check-in and boarding process.
“It all contributes to general health, wellness and productivity levels, so the extra cost of the fare is viewed as worthwhile for corporate travellers who are short of time as it is.”
Elf suggested travellers were well-researched before booking to ensure they were getting the most out of their cabin class.
“While business class will generally be more affordable than first class when comparing the two products across multiple airlines, it pays to know the aircraft and carrier you’re flying with to understand what your inclusions will be,” she said.
“For example, unlike first class, flying business class doesn’t ensure a lay-flat bed; some aircraft will not have lay-flats in the Business cabin, but many will. This is where corporate travel management companies can really ensure you’re maximising benefits.”
(Featured Image: Virgin Australia Business Class – Virgin Australia)