Since the pandemic has changed the way people think of business travel, large U.S. airlines have been thinking of new travel types that could replace it. Delta has spoken of the premium leisure passenger, or people that will pay for a nicer onboard experience and an upgraded hotel and ground package. Other large U.S. airlines have spoken of the “blended passenger”, or some say the “bleisure” passenger. This supposed growth category includes people whose travel includes some business and some leisure.
It’s understandable why the big U.S. airlines would look for this kind of traffic. Faced with business traffic levels stuck at about 75% of 2019 volume, this loss of revenue would be sizable for the three largest U.S. carriers. Corporate travelers have historically paid three to four times that of the discretionary, price-sensitive traveler. Even a 10% loss of business traffic volume would mean that airlines don’t have enough seats to make up the revenue with just leisure passengers. So, focusing on travel types that may not pay four times the rate, but could pay two times the discretionary rate, is enticing. Unfortunately for them, there are five big issues with this approach:
Business And Leisure Has Always Been Blended
The idea that blending business and leisure on single trip is a new and innovative thing is ignoring reality. Who has gone to a convention in Las Vegas and not taken time in the evening, or stayed on an extra day, to see Cirque du Soleil, another good show, or just do some gambling? Orlando is another big convention city. Many people have gone to business events at the Orlando Convention Center while their family is enjoying the day at Disney or Universal Studios. In the year 2000, I spoke at an event in Amman, Jordon. My wife joined me on that trip, and had fun during the day while I was at work. We wouldn't have left the country without visiting Petra, one of the most fascinating historical archeological sites on the globe. Twelve years ago, no one spoke of blended or bleisure travel, but it was happening regularly.