June 13, 2024

The summer of discontent

Clive Wratten, CEO of the Business Travel Association, asks corporates to have more understanding and patience amid the post-pandemic travel disruption

As we came out of the dark days of the Covid-19 pandemic, we hoped for a resurgence of international travel in general – business or leisure.

The uptake was far swifter than any of us imagined. The business travel sector was starting to flourish once more. Our promises of a global Britain were starting to bear fruit.

Then, things took another turn for the worse that we hadn’t predicted. Airport technology failed, staffing pressures increased and queues stacked up across the country.

Now we find ourselves in the middle of the so-called ‘Summer of Discontent’.

This isn’t just about international travel, it’s train strikes, tube strikes and the ever imminent threat of the next strike.

“Conversations, wait times and changes take longer. But, they are happening”

The business travel sector has always taken pride in looking after its staff, its customers and providing almost frictionless travel to its corporate customers.

Today, that’s become a difficult pledge to deliver. Our members (TMCs) are dealing with changes to one in four bookings. This is up from one in 11 bookings pre-pandemic. And many of these bookings require multiple changes rather than just one.

Airline or rail bookings are only the start. Every action has a knock-on consequence and our colleagues in the hospitality, car hire and events industries are working hard to service the needs of the corporate traveller.

Conversations, wait times and changes take longer. But, they are happening.

As we face more disruption, we ask the corporate traveller to understand the work our members are doing on their behalf. To understand this is a short-term problem.

To airlines, rail networks and all those considering going on strike, we need to come through this post-pandemic period together.

We need to support recovery and create a climate where profits can be shared, pay rises given and a new boom in British business is supported.