Change in the air: large firms expect to cut business flights by 50%


Several of the Netherlands’ largest companies are planning to cut business flights by as much as half compared to pre-pandemic levels.

A survey of large employers by Nieuwsuur found that many firms expected to take fewer international flights and hold more meetings online.

Accounting and financial advice agency PwC said it wanted to book 25% to 50% fewer flights and develop an app that shows employees’ carbon footprint.

Renate de Lange, of PwC’s Dutch management team, said the company booked just 300 business flights in 2021, compared to 8,600 in 2019. She said the firm wanted to encourage its staff to fly ‘smarter and more conscientiously.’

Dutch banks ABN and ING also said they expected to cut the number of flights by 50%, while Rabobank said its staff now routinely travelled by train to London and it was investing in more digital capacity. Shell also said virtual meetings would become the preferred form.

The development is a blow for KLM, which received €3.4 million in loans and state-backed guarantees in 2021 as well as €1.7 million in compensation via the NOW scheme for companies whose business was hit by the lockdown.

Business travellers accounted for around 32% of all travellers passing through Schiphol airport in 2018 and are responsible for around 40% of KLM’s turnover, partly because they are more likely to buy the most expensive tickets.

The number of passengers using Schiphol increased by 22% last year to 25.5 million, but this was still well below the 71.9 million clocked up in the previous year.

A spokesman for KLM said: ‘We have every confidence in a sustainable recovery for business travel. Last year we saw that the will and the need to travel again was great for business travellers. In-person meetings are essential for international commerce.’

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