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Head of Strategic Marketing, Airlines, Amadeus IT Group
As we enter what some deem the era of ‘mass luxury’ travel, where luxury experiences are more accessible to demographics beyond the ultra-rich, there appear to be new hotspots emerging around the world. So, just where is luxury travel – including business and first class – growing and why?
There’s been a steady decline in business class bookings in Europe, which was probably driven by the economic recession and accompanying austerity measures. During this period, many European firms and public sector agencies tightened their belts and implemented policies against travelling in business class for journeys under a certain length.
Meanwhile, in North America, the opposite has been the case, with business class traffic continuing to grow despite the recession. Once again, this could be driven by regional business travel patterns, rather than luxury leisure travel.
Asia experienced the biggest increase in business class flight bookings during this time. This was likely spurred by the continent’s impressive GDP growth, rapidly expanding global business networks, and by a new affluent class of travellers throughout the region that is eager to book leisure trips in business class.
Taking a look at Amadeus Travel Intelligence data for first class flight bookings from the same time period, we see the marked dominance of North American domestic first class flights over the entire global first class market.
This illustrates how US domestic air travel continues to form a very high proportion of all global air travel, as well as the extreme maturity of the US luxury travel market when compared to other regions. The fact that the number of first class flights has increased in the region illustrates how the wealthiest citizens of the world have not changed their travel patterns during the recession, and that the market has remained immune to austerity.
Although there’s been fall in commercial business class bookings, a recent report from jet broker FlyVictor found that private aviation in Western Europe was experiencing a 2.8% year-on-year growth. While there is an emerging trend for business travellers turning to private aviation, it’s more likely that the slow but steady growth in private jet uptake is down to the leisure travel of ultra-high-net-worth individuals that need an alternative to scheduled short-haul business class flights, which generally don’t cater to their luxury needs.