It turns out that jet-setting on the company dime has eternal appeal. Business trips can conjure up images of fancy first-class tickets to major cities or staying at a Hilton in a small town about 20 minutes from the airport. Either way, it seems that the pandemic didn’t kill the corporate travel bug.

The brakes on business trips were first pulled when COVID-19 hit, as lockdowns and international travel restrictions were implemented. Zoom took off while planes stalled, as the video-conferencing company went from 10 million daily meeting participants in December 2019 to 300 million a few months later in April 2020.

As the lockdown lifted, some itched to vacation again (surging to the point that the term “revenge travel” was coined), but corporate travel was slow to get its feet off the ground. Its sluggish return made some question if business trips were at the end of an era. Perhaps Zoom and remote work meant that there was no longer a need to leave the house, much less the country, to really connect with others. 

“Businesses aren’t going to support nonessential travel if the work being proposed can be done virtually,” Brian Bloom, Korn Ferry’s vice president of global benefits and mobility operations, said in 2021. And while bosses were looking to cut costs by eliminating travel, workers weren’t looking to risk their health either. In 2021, only one-quarter of those over 55 were comfortable traveling for work even after being vaccinated, according to an IBM survey of 15,000 global participants.

But years later, it seems as if corporate demand hasn’t died off, it just was dozing off for a bit. And the airlines confirmed as much. Alaska Air reported a return to pre-pandemic levels of business travel, as sales for corporate accounts soared by 22% in the first quarter. Delta and United each reported 14% increases in first-quarter revenue, with a United executive noting that the company notched nine of its top 10 corporate booking days in its history this year. That’s coming off of the rebound in 2023, as air travel rose to 94% of 2019 levels, according to the International Air Transport Association.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that business travel isn’t still going through growing pains. A 2023 report from Deloitte found that while recovery is occurring, the trend “likely faces a limited upside” in part due to the cost of flying and sustainability mandates. 

Still, the return of corporate travel is occurring in the background of a years-long campaign to go back to pre-pandemic ways of work, as big names in tech and finance push for a fully in-person week. One of the major talking points for those that suggested back to office work was that it would create better connections, a similar talking point that crops up when it comes to the merits of traveling to meet with clients in-person. 

It seems as if the mindset is slowly gaining traction, as a 2023 study from Global Business Travel Association projected spending on business travel will surpass pre-pandemic levels of $1.4 trillion this year and balloon to nearly $1.8 trillion by 2027. After Omicron and other surges, global business travel began to find its footing again in 2022, according to the trade group.

“The headwinds that were anticipated to impact the rebound of global business travel over the past year didn’t materialize and that is good news,” Suzanne Neufang, Global Business Travel Associate’s CEO said in a statement last year to Fortune’s Chris Morris. “This latest forecast now indicates an accelerated return to pre-pandemic spending levels sooner than anticipated as well as growth ahead in the coming years.”

As the ever-looming recession remains unannounced and executives continue to extol the benefits of in-person work, the company card has started to thaw. It appears as if the floodgates, or air gates, are beginning to open up again.

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