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First Class bookings double: Premium seats soar as Economy stalls with Aussie SMEs

Despite cost-of-living pressures and a possible recession, surprising new findings show premium airline seats in First Class and Business are trending up as economy bookings decrease for Australian businesses.

Corporate Traveller data highlights bookings more than doubled for First Class seats for the first half of 2023 (up 107%) and Business Class seats increased by 26 per cent compared to 2022.

In comparison, Premium Economy and Economy bookings decreased by 41 per cent and 20 per cent respectively for the same period.

Corporate Traveller Global Managing Director Tom Walley said while the results are surprising, it demonstrates stability and growth in Australian SMEs and good news for travel businesses, too.

“There’s no doubt the economy is fragile and a lot of people are feeling the pinch at the moment, but this data is a positive sign for our SME sector. For many, flying isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity for business success and survival,” he said.

“First Class bookings have doubled over the past year and traditionally cheaper seats are lower. This shift in travel preferences shows business travel remains a priority for SMEs and businesses have room in their budgets to pay for luxury on their trips.”

Tom Walley Headshot 2 1
Corporate Traveller Global Managing Director Tom Walley.

Corporate Traveller also reported that regional business flights, in particular, grew by 10.5 per cent above 2019 levels in 2022.

From post-pandemic to now

Seat selection data following the reopening of international borders between January and June 2022 initially showed a jump in Economy (30%) and Premium Economy (62%) bookings.

Business and First Class bookings fell during that period, down 26 per cent and 23 per cent respectively, which Mr Walley said was due to post-pandemic trepidation as SMEs restarted work travel.

“Businesses were more cautious with their choice of seat selection; in fear they would have to cancel last minute,” he said.

“This makes the huge rise in First Class bookings even more encouraging. It shows just how far the SME sector and the travel industry have come in a year with confidence bouncing back strongly.”

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