CARY – Regional leaders gathered at the posh Umstead Hotel and Spa in Cary to hear some grim news Friday morning: Business travelers aren’t going to be swarming back aboard jets anytime soon. And that’s bad news for the airlines as well as those service providers and restaurants that cater to the expensve report writing crowd.

According to Investopedia, business travels made up 12% or passengers but account for as much as 75% of airline profits. Why?

“Businesses are generally willing to pay more to book last-minute and non-stop flight options but rarely allow premium-section seats for rank and file employees.

“Businesses usually allow employees to leverage business travel to earn and keep frequent flyer miles and points, which are increasingly valuable to airlines as a source of revenue and data.”

Addressing the Regional Transportation Alliance, Scott McCartney of The Wall Street Journal and author of the “Middle Seat” column presented a breakdown of data from a US Travel Association report last month that projects how long the recovery of business travel will take:

  • 464 million business travelers in 2019
  • 181 million business travelers in 2020
  • 210 million business travelers in 2021
  • 471 million in business travelers in 2024

Then there are business travel dollars:

  • $306 billion in 2019
  • $95 billion in 2020
  • $125 billion in 2021
  • $306 billion in 2024

And while RDU International Airport has reported a resurgence in overall passenger numbers, the recovery from the pandemic has a ways to go. For example, McCartney noted, across North Carolina, airlines are scheduling 14% fewer departures this summer than in the summer of 2019.

RDU announces new campaign to spur air travel: ‘Carry On’

The briefing came three weeks after the Raleigh-Durham Airport Authority unveiled a new marketing campaign at a press conference today, which is backed by a partnership known as the Triangle Take-Off Coalition, a collaboration that seeks to spur economic growth in the Triangle through increased air travel.

The campaign is called “Carry On.”

But business travel will remain a weakness, according to McCartney’s presentation.

And less business travel spending also will have a wide-spread impact as McCartney noted, citing data from “Airline Guys” research in this graphic:

A chart from