Faced with a major downslide in business traffic, airlines are now adopting innovative schemes to attract high-end and corporate travellers to fill in the seats on the front rows.
As the global slowdown intensified, the airline industry felt the heat with a sharp drop in business and first class travel as companies resorted to video conferencing instead of having their officials fly.
However, in some good news for the beleaguered industry, the latest report of the global airlines body International Air Transport Association (IATA) has projected "early signs of an upturn" in the number of business class travellers, though it says the yields have not gone up.
According to the IATA, the drop in the number of international premium travellers in July came down to 14.1 per cent versus last year, compared with a 21.3 per cent decline in June. Excess premium capacity and changed corporate travel buying kept yields down 23 per cent and premium revenues down 35-40 per cent in July, the IATA's Premium Traffic Monitor said.
It said consumer confidence has been rising since February, pulling economy travel up with it. "Passenger numbers are now starting to turn up but there is a long way to go before activity returns to levels seen in 2007 and early 2008," the report said.