Traveling this week provided some interesting data points for both business travel and leisure.
I have written a couple of posts about travel observations during this unique time in our global history because the world is changing so rapidly around us and sometimes what we see on the news, for better or worse, is not what is seen in person. This information is all anecdotal and i just my observations alone.
Business Travel Making a Comeback?
I flew out and back on “Consultant Special” flights, departing on Sunday night and returning on Thursday night. On both nights, Pittsburgh International was packed. Specifically, on Thursday night I walked past medium-full gates for leisure destinations but a ton of professional types at the nearby American Airlines gates crowding on to very full flights.
I flew for business a couple of times during the pandemic and every other week prior. In my estimation, I would say that business travel may be coming back more than previously thought. Delta released a stat that prior to the new variant, corporate travel had returned 40% despite many majors (Apple, Microsoft, etc.) not yet putting employees back on the road.
Logic would have suggested that the latest variant and announcements that those employers rescinded calls back to the office would have subdued some of that corporate travel, and it may have. But from my view on a Thursday night in Pittsburgh, it looked as busy as ever for business travel.
Empty Beaches, Full Flights
I have never seen the beaches in Fort Myers so empty, even in the summer or around hurricane season. I included a shot from my (now gone) drone that shows just five people across a massive stretch of beach a little more than a mile long. We had no issues finding a table at a restaurant, no wait getting coffee, and while it wasn’t deserted it was surprisingly light even for local traffic.
Flights, however, were relatively full. In contrast to flying during high season (packed flights) or summer trips (empty flights), our outbound sold 150 of 170 seats, and our return was about as full. Upon our return to Pittsburgh, the gate area was relatively full for another flight to Fort Myers, though this was a Thursday night so it would be logical that flight loads escalate for weekend getaways.
Cheap Tickets Abound for Florida Travel
Despite plenty of business travel and reasonably full flights to lesiure destinations on our dates (less so at other gates), cheap tickets are everywhere in the sunshine state and it’s not just on Spirit. Take a look at rates to Fort Lauderdale and Miami for mid-October. Keep in mind that the Spirit roundtrip you see will be cheaper if you buy it at the airport – our roundtrip came up as $86 online but the three of us flew for just $39.20 roundtrip each by buying at the airport.
American was available for $97 roundtrip nonstop Pittsburgh-Miami but the same at-airport purchase discounts are not available on American, of course.
It wasn’t limited to just Fort Lauderdale which faces competition from Southwest, and American in the case of the South Florida market. Even the usually expensive Florida Keys had cheap flights from just $236 on American into Key West. Not a bad time too visit the beautiful state parks and national parks in the islands.
Other markets like Orlando which also faces competition from Southwest adds Frontier to the party as well. For those curious, Southwest was between three times higher to Orlando and more than five times higher to Frot Lauderdale. Even after buying the extras, that’s still dramatically higher, as per usual. Families heading to Walt Disney World or Universal Orlando theme parks might find some of the cheapest times to visit especially from the northeast United States.
If you work remotely, now is a good time to head to the sunshine state.
We knew that leisure travel would drop off following the restart of the school year. We also knew that business travel was down, but I was shocked to see just how busy business routes appeared to be, and just how drastically wide open the beaches were. If you have the flexibility now is the time to go.
What do you think? Did you travel this week? What did you see?