Travel: Executives facing life in economy plane class

Many executives forced to take economy seats on planes due to the recession are still likely to be "slumming it" when they take flights in the future, a report showed yesterday.

As the economy recovers, many companies are keen for staff to carry on flying in economy class or use low-cost carriers, the report from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) said.

But although video conferencing has increased, many executives will at least still be able to fly away on business as "companies still wish to meet current and potential customers in person", the report said.

The report, Flying On Business, said demand for business travel fell by 22 per cent during 2008 and 2009, was also down in the first quarter of 2010 but was now recovering.

Business air links with Europe were hit hardest by the recession, with demand dropping by 25 per cent between 2008 and 2009.

Heathrow Airport was not immune, domestic and short-haul routes being particularly badly affected, dropping 30 per cent and 25 per cent respectively between 2007 and 2009.

The report said the recession "hastened the migration" of short-haul business travellers from business class to travelling in economy and using no-frills carriers.

There was a general acceptance that economic recovery will not reverse this trend. As a result of companies looking to embed efficiencies forced on them by the recession, evidence suggests that business travellers are being increasingly encouraged to search for the "best fare on the day" and to accept some restrictions on ticket flexibility.