Looking for Robb Report UK? Click here to visit our UK site.

‘Bleisure Travelers’ Are Giving Airlines a Much-Needed Boost. Here’s How.

The new breed of traveler combines business with leisure and is willing to spend more for extras.

People at an airport Unsplash

Airlines took a hit during the pandemic as people stopped traveling for obvious reasons (… the virus that shan’t be named). Corporate flights, in particular, were nixed in favor of the home office. Although business travel hasn’t yet fully returned, a new segment is propping up the airline industry: “bleisure travel.”

The term pertains to a new type of flier blurring the lines between business and leisure travel, as The Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday. That might mean adding on a personal trip after a business one, or traveling whenever you want thanks to flexible work-from-home (or work-from-beach or work-from-mountains) policies. It’s a way of traveling much different from the trends that existed before 2020, but one that airlines are relatively pleased to see.

“People don’t have to keep a work life for five days and a personal life for two days, and carve out two weeks a year for vacation,” Vasu Raja, American Airlines’ chief commercial officer, said at an industry event earlier this year.

Prior to the pandemic, about half of the US airline industry’s profits came from almost 12 percent of people flying for business, according to McKinsey & Company data cited by the Journal. Now, for an airline like American, about half of the revenue comes from people combining business and leisure travel—fliers who are spending about as much as corporate travelers once did.

Because of that, airlines are also rethinking the travel experience. Some are retooling schedules, prices and even the planes themselves to account for the changing tides. According to data, vacation routes like Atlanta to Orlando now have more seats than business routes like New York to Los Angeles. And American, for example, is planning to get rid of its first-class cabin on international long-haul flights in exchange for more business-class and premium seating, which even leisure travelers might be willing to pay for.

“These premium leisure customers… are clearly buying the type of products they used to have their corporations buy for them,” Andrew Nocella, the chief commercial officer at United Airlines, told The WSJ.

Some executives, however, aren’t sure these current trends will hold in the long term. Southwest Airlines’ Ryan Green, for instance, said that none of the recent patterns would cause the company to completely change how it operates.

For now, though, people do largely seem to enjoy being able to work from wherever—whether that’s their main abode or a hotel suite in Mexico, Montana or Montenegro. And the airlines are certainly enjoying it too.

More Aviation