Business Travel Forecast: Airfares Could Dip, But Fees Will Still Bite

American Express Business Travel announces adjusted results of business travel forecast in anticipation of global economic slowdown


New York — October 29, 2008 — Airfares may fall back somewhat in 2009, but business travelers may wind up paying more to get where they're going as airlines continue to pursue new fees to boost their own bottom lines, according to the latest "Global Business Travel Forecast and Trends" report from American Express Business Travel.

Originally slated to release the report in September, the American Express Advisory Services department responsible for producing the study delayed its release in order to evaluate the impact of market activities that have occurred over the last 30 days.

In particular, over the past weeks, modifications were made to reflect the potential impact of the anticipated global economic slowdown. In certain markets, the forecast predicts a negative increase in 2009 to airfares and hotel rates. Both suppliers and buyers of travel and related services are expected to face new operating challenges in the coming year.

"Based on forecasted economic conditions for 2009 and the substantial increase in fares already experienced in 2008, it is possible that airfares in 2009 may decrease," said Hervé Sedky, vice president and general manager for Global Advisory Services at American Express Business Travel.

"However, this doesn't necessarily correlate to a decrease in prices paid as airlines continue their pursuit of expanding the suite of fees charged for services such as in-flight meals and baggage," Sedky continued. "In this difficult economic environment, successful [travel and entertainment (T&E)] management strategies will be based upon the total cost of a business trip, which takes into consideration costs such as parking fees, airline fees, meals and other related expenses."

Global Business Travel Forecast

Sedky said that, considering airfare, car rental and hotel stay, American Express expects the average domestic trip to increase 2.8 percent, or $31, to a total of approximately $1,139. An increase of 4.3 percent, or approximately $147, is expected for international trips, to bring the average cost to $3,556.

"However, if you include the costs of additional travel expenses, including baggage fees, dining, airport parking and even package shipping, it can add an estimated $400 to the total trip cost," Sedky said.

Global Airfare Forecast

The proliferation of new fees and a delicate supply and demand balancing act will determine whether airfares remain steady, increase or potentially decrease compared to 2008.

"In response to the record energy prices in 2008, many airlines began charging fees for different services such as checked luggage, in-flight refreshments and aisle seating. To help mitigate the impact of these new charges, which can increase air travel costs up to an additional 15 percent per trip, we advise companies to consider increasing their focus on demand management to ensure planned trips meet the guidelines designed to promote the most effective use of their business investment," continued Sedky.
Additional trends highlighted in the report:

  • Capacity cuts are likely to lead to a shortage of available seats at lower price points, while changes in ticketing and minimum-stay requirements, uncertainty surrounding the future price of jet fuel, movement in airline consolidation and alliances and tighter controls over contract performance measurement are likely to drive price increases.
  • Prices are predicted to experience downward pressure due to a slowing global economy, improved demand management by corporations and stronger traveler compliance. The expansion of low-cost carriers, more efficient aircraft and airline operations and the continued liberalization of the industry are also expected to mitigate increases.

Global Hotel Rate Forecast





Strategic Meeting Management Forecast








Cost Containment Strategies for 2009



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