The state of air travel in 2023

A seismic shift toward new and innovative thinking is revolutionising business models across the board and is a good reason for strategists to rethink the future. Tesla, Uber and Airbnb have all been major disruptors and proven that holding onto the tried and tested may prove to be an act of futility in these turbulent times.

As the travel industry navigates increasing challenges, including the return from acute downsizing to an unprecedented and unexpected surge in demand, the landscape is continually being shaped by major shifts in consumer lifestyles and expectations, the continuing war in Ukraine, backlogs in supply chains and threats from the telecommunications sector. It’s going to be an interesting year.

This is what you can expect from air travel in 2023.

1. Carbon targets are priorities for airlines

Global pressures around carbon footprints are driving changes in aviation, a sector that is an easy target for carbon activists. In fact, International air transport association (IATA) members have vowed to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. The industry has responded by discontinuing short flights and replacing them with public transportation on trains and buses. Some airports have also increased airport taxes in a bid to make train transport more attractive.

Reducing waste has become a key focus for many airlines. Some airlines, like Lufthansa, now offer passengers a reusable metal cutlery set for a small fee. Other airlines have pledged to remove or recycle single-use materials on their flights like headsets.

Carbon calculations are now commonplace to support eco-conscious travellers.

2.  The aviation industry is going digital

The introduction of automation is impacting airlines and airports in many ways. Automation tools such as automated check-in and baggage handling systems reduce manual labour, leading to fewer errors and faster processing. Automated systems also allow airlines to accurately predict customer demand, which helps them better manage their resources.

Airlines have also adopted biometrics, meaning your face becomes your boarding pass. Facial matching technology can be used to check bags, move through security and even for boarding a plane at selected gates—all without showing a physical boarding pass or government ID.

3.  Increased airfares

After Covid, there has been a steep decline in the number of airlines in South Africa and indeed globally. Together, that means a deficit of seats to increasing demand. In addition to that, rising fuel prices and airline labour and aircraft shortage mean that airfares are increasing.

According to Skift, airfares on key corporate travel routes are expected to rise by as much as 25 percent in 2023.

There is hope, though, as we’re witnessing the appetite for international travel that is seemingly insatiable. International carriers with lie-flat seats and top-tier offerings are more likely to capture high-flyer spending.

Structural changes like seating configurations, fleet considerations and loyalty programmes will need to be reconsidered as corporate travellers account for fewer seats. 

4.  Bleisure travel

The concept, which arose from work-from-home and naturally evolved into an attitude of work-from-anywhere has enjoyed considerable success as companies gravitate to employee wellness as a measure of success.

Business travellers are encouraged to extend their stays and include family in their travel plans. This has a positive knock-on effect for carriers who benefit from more bums in seats and also extends to boosting the sustainability of the tourism sector through the associated spending on trains, buses, hospitality, and entertainment at local destinations.

The future looks promising for a robust return to corporate travel, which means business is back on track, people are connecting, and things are happening. Some see change as a good thing, while others see it in a more negative light. The truth is that how you adapt will determine whether this change becomes the former or the latter.

Please speak to us to see how we can work together to help you recalibrate your travel programme.