United Airlines Says Leisure Travel Demand Surpasses Pre-Pandemic Levels, Says Business Travel Coming

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United CEO Scott Kirby said on Tuesday that demand for leisure travel on the airline has returned to a higher level than before the pandemic and that the sale of last minute tickets are increasing along with usage of MilePlus credit cards as well as with an increase in the number of people joining the airlines Mileage Plus frequent flyer program.  Kirby also said workers in most sectors will be returning to the office by fall and he he expects business trips to start increasing in the third quarter.

Kirby said there has been an increase in new co-branded credit cards that earn credit card customers frequent flyer points on the airline as well as an increase in usage of co-branded credit cards by customers who already had one.  Several business experts have been noting that the great love affair with working from home will be coming to an end as roughly 60% of employee’s working from home want to return to the office and another 15% want to at least work at the office part time.  “Humans crave social interaction even when we say we don’t and we say we like being alone” says business psychologist Brent Korzack.  “What we are finding is that employees who have remained strongly in favor of working from home also tend to be the least engaged in their work” citing a study from Harvard.

United is expecting to return to profitability in the third quarter of 2021 while it lost $7 billion in 2020.  A majority of the carriers flights have reached an 80% load factor, a key level towards profitability.  Kirby did also note that he has started to see some business travel, especially to/from areas with good vaccination rates.