Air Transport World

A leisurely pace. (leisure travel)

Several years ago, in the midst of a traffic boom, industry analysts were saying that long-term industry growth depended on stimulating leisure travel (ATW, 1/86). The impression at the time was that airlines would use their fare management systems to shove masses of lowfare travelers, sardine can-style, into empty economy seats.

Carriers remain interested in building leisure traffic. Chris Bowers, United VP and general sales manager, declares, "The most dramatic growth is in leisure travel." But for several airlines that ATW talked with, the leisure-marketing focus is not on inexperienced, infrequent travelers. Instead, it is on their already-frequent, high-yield business passengers whom they want to keep flying-and often-on leisure trips.

Sometimes, finding evidence that airlines have any interest in vacationers is difficult. The preponderance of day-to-day actions and expenditures suggest a continuing fixation on business travel. All companies promote their improvements in customer service. Airlines are spending significant sums installing more business and first-class seats on aircraft flying the Pacific. American promotes its first-class food as if it could offer travelers New York's Lutece restaurant in the sky. Travel agencies are investing a great deal of time and money to develop worldwide links that can serve business passengers.

But below the surface, efforts are designed to attract vactioners. These activities may be lower-profile than those directed at business fliers but nonetheless, they exist. In many cases, CRS software will play a key role.

Boeing's market researchers agree that leisure travel must grow. The company's 1991 Current Market Outlook forecasts that, "from 1993-2000, yields are expected to decline modestly as lower costs and greater profitability allow further market stimulation through travel bargains." But how much "stimulation" airlines will offer remains to be shown.

Bill Droppleman, a Boeing market analyst, says: "The carriers today that are successful are those who have captured and kept their share of business class. [Even] Virgin [Atlantic] has structured itself not to go after the lowest-price seat. Business traffic continues to carry both the Pacific and Atlantic because yields are four times what economy [yields] are likely to be. I can't find a home for that lowest-fare seat. "I don't see a marked shift" from current practice.


That's certainly true at Continental, which feels it has more than enough lower-yield passengers. …

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