Nearly half of business travellers reject future flights in favour of video calls

A new poll has found that 40 per cent of European business travellers say they will travel by plane less than they did even after Covid-19 restrictions are lifted.

Instead of flying to meetings, the poll of 1,400 business people found that many people will stick to video conferencing to carry out important conversations with clients abroad.

The findings suggest that the societal shifts around travel that have been forced by the pandemic could remain in place, with the comparative ease of video calling - coupled with concerns over the environmental impact of flying - leading to less airborne travel than before.

The poll was carried out by YouGov for the European Climate Foundation, which supports efforts to reach net-zero carbon emissions.

Of those surveyed, 40 per cent said they would reduce their flying, with 5 per cent saying they would stop flying for business altogether. On the flipside of this, 38 per cent said they would maintain the same frequency of travel in future, while 13 per cent said they would actually take more flights.

In February, Europe’s aviation sector published a study describing how it could cut its carbon emissions to net zero by 2050 through technological advances and expansion of sustainable fuel use.

While electric and hydrogen planes have been advocated as an environmentally friendly solution for shorter flights, long-haul aviation currently presents a serious technological hurdle that may require the use of carbon capture technologies to offset their fuel emissions.

“Flying for business meetings burns up time and money, as well as our climate,” said Alethea Warrington, campaigner at climate action charity Possible, when speaking to Reuters. “This polling shows that after a year of quick and easy virtual meetings, travellers aren’t planning to go back to business as usual.”

The UK’s aviation sector has been decimated by the pandemic, with Heathrow - the UK’s largest airport - seeing its passenger numbers slide by 72.2 per cent in 2020 from the year before.

International Air Transport Association analysts have forecasted that despite the Covid-19 vaccines and testing procedures rolling out worldwide, the recovery of demand for air travel may not reach pre-crisis levels until 2024.

While this estimate would imply that the aviation sector just needs to hold on for a few years until it can return to growth, the attitudes presented in the latest survey suggests a full recovery could take longer.

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