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Michael O’Leary: Business Travel Set for ‘Dramatic Recovery’

Michael O’Leary: Business Travel Set for ‘Dramatic Recovery’

Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary has confidently predicted that business travel will make a ‘dramatic recovery’ from the pandemic. Speaking to a Financial Times forum he said that corporate travel would rebound to pre-pandemic levels by 2022 and that predictions about the death of business travel “always prove to be wrong.”

O’Leary expects a “small decline” in corporate travel due to the prevalence of video conferencing, but bullishly claimed that “there is going to be a dramatic, I think, recovery in what I would call short-haul business travel, people out there meeting suppliers, visiting suppliers they haven’t seen for a year, out there making sales calls, getting conferences back and going again,” he said to the FT’s Due Diligence Forum on Wednesday, April 21.

His optimism isn’t shared by other industry leaders. Also speaking to the Financial Times, Virgin Atlantic boss Shai Weiss said that he expected a 20 per cent drop off, while the chief executive of Star Alliance, Jeffrey Goh, thinks that up to a third of corporate travel will disappear. Roughly a third of Ryanair passengers travel for business.

Meanwhile, IATA said that losses for global airlines in 2021 will top US$50 billion, which is worse than previously anticipated, due to borders remaining closed longer than anticipated.

Never one to be concerned with what others think, Michael O’Leary bucks the negative forecasting by expressing confidence even about summer travel. He revealed that Ryanair bookings had risen over the last few weeks from 400,000 to 700,000 a week – a marked rise but still only 30 per cent of normal.

“I think you will see much more freedom of movement this summer between the UK and Europe, on the basis of vaccinations and vaccination certificates,” he said.

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Fionn Davenport is the editor-in-chief of the ITTN group, including ITTN and ITTN Ireland. He's one of Ireland's best-known travel journalists and writers, with nearly 30 years' experience writing guidebooks for Lonely Planet and others.

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