Low-Cost Carriers Predict Business Travel Will Be Back By Labor Day

Cecilia Nysing

Business travel is coming back to the United States, said Barry Biffle and Ted Christie, presidents and CEOs of Frontier Airlines and Spirit Airlines, respectively. They expect the business segment to bounce back during the second half of the year, allowing legacy carriers to focus on their high yield franchises and low-cost operators to remain with the leisure markets. Let’s investigate further.

Frontier Airlines Airbus A320-251N N330FR (3)
Both Frontier and Spirit expect business travel to be back this year. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

When will business travel come back?

During Routes Americas 2021, both low-cost carriers’ CEOs spoke about how soon they think legacy carriers will pull from leisure markets. Ted Christie said,

“If they wanna make money, they have to do it at some point pretty quickly. Their job is carrying higher yielding traffic; they fill around the edges with leisure. The focus going forward will be on them building back their higher yield franchises.”

Therefore, it won’t be long before US legacy carriers pull back from deploying long-haul aircraft on domestic routes. They have done some experiments during the past few months, but low-cost airlines expect those to be over now.

Barry Biffle said,

“Business travel will come back, and that’s what makes some money. Legacy will be chasing it. They’re gonna go where the money is, and once they’ll do that, you’ll stop seeing widebodies flying around the domestic US. You’ll stop seeing CRJs in the Gulf. I expect you’re gonna see it by Labor Day.”

Just like there’s pent-up leisure demand, there’s pent-up business demand, he added. Many people need to see their clients, so the second half of the year could be filled with business travelers.

Spirit A320neo
Spirit is well prepared for the summer and fall seasons; doesn’t expect to be impacted by the shortage of labor. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

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Shortages were predictable

Last week, American Airlines had to cancel hundreds of flights and made adjustments through July. The company faced some labor shortages, which has directly impacted the customers.

The airline industry doesn’t expect this to go away any time soon. Peter Cerdá, regional vice-president of the International Air Travel Association (IATA) for the Americas, said,

“The industry will face challenges in the summer, not because of weather or government restrictions, but because we don’t have enough manpower to keep up with the recovery.”

The whole travel industry in the US is facing a shortage of labor. According to Biffle, the Transport Security Administration (TSA) suffered one of the hardest hits due to this.

Nevertheless, both Spirit and Frontier have prepared themselves and don’t expect to suffer much from the crisis. Biffle said Frontier saw the shortages coming, and if other airlines haven’t planned with months in advance, they’re in trouble right now.

Meanwhile, Christie noted that they were quick to start the engine moving again, but it has been a painful process. Nevertheless, Spirit is in a good position, and its schedule looks good for the summer and the fall.

American Boeing 777
American Airlines has had to pull down some of its planned flying for the next month after significant cancelations this weekend. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

Where are both carriers right now?

For July 2021, Spirit Airlines will offer 21,589 flights across the United States, according to Cirium’s database. It will have nearly four million seats available. Spirit has bounced back from the COVID-19 crisis. It is already offering 3% more flights than July 2019 and 4.2% more seats.

Meanwhile, Frontier Airlines offers 14,730 flights in July 2021, a 13% increase compared to two years ago. The airline has 2.8 million seats available.

When do you expect business travel to bounce back? Let us know in the comments.

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