Business Travel is Resuming, but not as fast as Leisure

April 13, 2021

Business Travel is Resuming, but not as fast as Leisure

TSA checkpoint data confirms air travel is resuming. The 14-day avg. of passenger throughput is more than 1,000% higher in 2021 vs. 2020. However, it remains -38% lower vs. the same two week average in 2019.

LikeFolio data displays a divide in the reason for travel: consumers are resuming travel for leisure at a faster clip than travel for work:
Flying for Leisure: +23% QoQ
Taking a Roadtrip: +12% QoQ
Work Travel: +4% QoQ
This has resulted in a disparity in booking demand across major airlines. The scatterplot below showcases how Southwest's focus on leisure is bolstering it vs. peers who have greater business travel exposure.

While Delta (DAL) has a sentiment edge vs. American (AAL), and a booking edge vs. United (UAL), it trails Southwest (LUV) in both metrics.

Last quarter, Delta cut its cash burn in half and said it expected to be profitable this summer. It also capped off its worst year ever, posting an annual net loss of $12.39 billion. Shares rose on vaccine hopes and optimism for travel. Trend data and qualitative analysis supports optimism.

But DAL booking mentions don't support complete normalization. Purchase Intent mentions remain 62% lower vs. 2019. Heading into earnings Thursday before the bell, DAL shares are trading ~17% lower than pre-covid levels posted in February 2020. We've got our eyes on guidance.

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