Business travel at Logan bouncing back, aviation official says

Business travel at Logan bouncing back, aviation official says

Passenger activity at Logan International Airport is “exceeding” forecasts this year as aviation officials witness a return of business travel and a “strong summer demand” for recreational flights, a top director at the Massachusetts Port Authority said Thursday morning.

Businesses all but ceased traveling during the dark days of the COVID-19 pandemic as the aviation industry tanked and most white-collar workers turned to virtual meetings as a way to keep up with each other while offices were closed.

But MassPort Interim CEO and Aviation Director Ed Freni said most major airlines saw “double-digit revenue growth” from corporate customers in the first quarter. Companies in finance, technology, and professional services are spending more on air travel, a trend that is expected to continue through 2024, Freni said.

Airlines are also reporting an increase in business class travel, another way to measure the demand, Freni said.

“We’ve seen many cases of this leisure phenomenon where people are traveling, extending their business travel with leisure,” he said. “It’s kind of hard to pick them out as you see them traveling through the airport. But as of late, we have seen more evidence of the business-type traveler.”

Preliminary data from MassPort estimated 3.6 million passengers traveled through Logan Airport in April, nearly 4% more than the same time last year, according to data presented Thursday. Freni cautioned that not all airlines had submitted their datasets and the number could change.

The 3.6 million who traveled through Boston beat forecasts by about 9%, an increase that was also driven “due to customers continuing to spend on air travel” even as economic growth slows, Freni said.

Nearly 34 million passengers have traveled through the airport so far this year, nearly 7% higher than data from the same time last year, Freni said.

“In their April earnings call, the major airlines voiced expectations for record levels of spring and summer travel, particularly travel to and from Europe. Airline flight schedules have been more stable with cancellation rates trending downward from over 2% during the meltdown two summers ago to 1.4% for 2024 to date,” he said.

The industry is still facing headwinds, with a shortage of airline traffic controllers creating a potential for ground stops, delays, and congested airspace, he said.

Worcester Regional Airport also had a “strong” April, mostly due to school vacation travel to destinations in Florida, Freni said. There were 21,150 passengers who made their way through the airport last month, an increase of 17% over the same time last year, Freni said.

“We continue to see strong passenger volumes and numbers in Worcester. We’re very happy about the outcome of the new service to Fort Myers, (Florida),” Freni said.

More than 188,000 passengers used Worcester Regional Airport so far this year, a 21% increase over data from the same time last year, according to a presentation delivered to the MassPort board.

Hanscom Field, a general aviation airport, saw a 10% increase in activity last month, a boost that is credited to “favorable weather for small-engine aircraft including pilot training operations,” according to Freni.

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