Round-trip vs. one-way flights offer clues to bottom of travel market

In an indicator that the bottom of the travel market may be in sight, people are once again searching for round-trip flights.

Let us explain:

As fears about the coronavirus swept the world, flight searches underwent a dramatic and unprecedented change, according to <intent> data. Searches for one-way travel soared as people a) looked to flee places that seemed dangerous, b) decided to head home to be with loved ones during the crisis, and/or c) relocated to second-homes and vacation communities.

By contrast, searches for round-trip flights plummeted.

That behavior still holds. Clearly no one is hoping on a plane to visit someplace with plans to return in a few days. Our data shows that the majority of searches for flights with a Date-to-Arrival of fewer than 30 days are for one-way trips. But as consumers look further out in their calendars, and as much of the world begins lifting restrictions on businesses, that changes.

The image below shows searches for flights in the United States. Take a look.  You’ll  see that:

Round-trip flights

  • One-way flight searches as a percentage of total searches are decreasing for DTA of less than 30 days.
  • And for searches for flights with a more than 30-day DTA, the data looks more “normal” when compared to 2019.

Certainly this doesn’t mean the recovery has begun. Rather the data on round-trip flight searches seems to support our theory that we will soon see a surge in what we call get-a-meeting-with-the-client travel.

At <intent> we believe there’s enormous pent-up demand for business travel because of the coronavirus crisis. That demand is growing exponentially as businesses try to figure out how they can survive the next few months. When planes fly again, they will be filled with road warriors looking to close deals before it’s too late.

And the data suggests that those road warriors believe the time to fly is coming soon.

For more on our thoughts on when the travel market might return, read this earlier post about hotel revenue.