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You are the Way You Fly: On the Association between Business Travel and Business Class Travel

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Document pages: 8 pages

Abstract: The objective of this Viewpoint is to scrutinize the commonsensical association between ‘business travel’ and ‘business class travel’. Indeed, in research on theory and practice in air transport, both concepts are often assumed to be almost one and the same. For instance, the number of ‘business visitors’ at an airport is often guesstimated based on the number of ‘business class’ bookings. Thus the Belgian branch of BCD Travel, a leading provider of global corporate travel management, declared in a 2007 press statement that in 2006 Belgian business travelers were primarily flying to New York, Frankfurt, Munich, London and Zurich because these cities were the most important destinations of customers booking business class tickets . It is, however, clear that in practice the business class business travel relation depends inter alia on corporate policies and individual motives in terms of travel planning. For instance, business travelers do not necessarily travel in business class, while some (ostensibly rich) tourists may well travel in business class because of enhanced comfort . Furthermore, the analytical connection may exhibit a variegated pattern as some business travelers may well fly economy class on short-haul flights because of the short travel time (e.g. some companies have a travel policy that only allows business class travel for intercontinental travel). To our knowledge, the conceptual and empirical relations between ‘business travel’ and ‘business class travel’ have not yet been explicitly broached in research on air transportation. The starting point of this Viewpoint, therefore, is that transport researchers and policy-makers should treat this commonsensical association as an assumption that needs validation and specification rather than as a grounded truth. In our argument, we use a number of recent insights from research on the sociology, economics and geography of business travel summarized in a recent book on this topic (Beaverstock et al., 2010a) to spell these relations out in more detail.

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