Thinking back on 2022, we see it’s been a year of extreme highs and lows for travel. Seemingly as quickly as travel dissipated in 2020, it came roaring back as people, starving to see the world again, seized the opportunity to take advantage of easing restrictions globally. The industry struggled to keep up with the intense demand, leading to a lot of travel friction. But if we look on the bright side, those difficult moments forced us to become savvier travelers.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the most significant events in travel over the last 12 months – the good, the bad, and even the smelly – to learn from the lessons 2022 presented us with so we can better prepare for our journeys in 2023, a potentially big year for business travel.
December 24–January 7
A turbulent start to the year: US travelers face one of the worst stretches of flight cancellations since the beginning of the pandemic when airlines are forced to scrub more than 1,000 daily US flights for 13 consecutive days due to winter storms and COVID-19 infections. The mass disruptions are a taste of what’s to come, with more flights within, into, and out of the US canceled in the first half of 2022 than experienced in all of 2021.
Go big or stay home: Expedia calls 2022 the year of the GOAT, or “greatest of all trips” after a survey it conducted finds that more than two-thirds (68%) of American respondents plan to go big on their next trip. Meanwhile, Amadeus sees a jump in searches and bookings to “epic destinations,” including Tanzania, Jordan’s Petra, cities near Machu Picchu, islands in the Indian Ocean, and Antarctica.
Moving them to safety: Russia launches a full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Multiple teams at American Express Global Business Travel (Amex GBT) work around the clock to help clients get their employees and employees’ families in Ukraine to safety. “I think many of our Amex GBT and partner traveler counselors were heroes to a lot of travelers,” said James Griffin, vice president of risk and compliance at Amex GBT. “They’d receive calls from client employees or their family members who were scared and exhausted, looking for information on the closest border crossings, what modes of transportation were available, where they could find rooms, etc. In this incredibly sensitive time, our travel counselors responded with the utmost empathy while comforting and supporting them.”
Packed with purpose: According to American Express Travel’s 2022 Global Travel Trends Report, travelers are increasingly making booking decisions based on the impact they can drive. Eighty-one percent of respondents say they want to travel where they can immerse in the culture and direct their spending to go back into the local economy.
Wheels up, masks down: The Biden administration lifts a mask mandate on US public transportation after a federal judge rules the directive as unlawful. Soon after the announcement, all major carriers relax the restrictions. Videos and images of airline passengers celebrating the news mid-flight begin circulating on social media.
We have a “public” announcement: Amex GBT begins trading as a public company on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol GBTG. “Trading as a public company follows years of work to strengthen our market leadership position. While listing our company is an achievement, it also marks the beginning of a new phase of growth paired with a focus on delivering long-term shareholder value as the world’s largest publicly traded B2B travel platform,” said Chief Executive Officer Paul Abbott.
Testing out: A sign that the world is entering a new phase of the pandemic, the CDC announces that air passengers traveling to the United States from a foreign country no longer need to show a negative COVID-19 test result or documentation of recovery to board their flights. It’s welcome news for many people with summer plans abroad.
Soaring toward sustainable air travel: Amex GBT makes a joint statement with Shell and Accenture announcing the launch of Avelia, one the world’s first blockchain-powered digital sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) book-and-claim solutions for business travel. It is the largest SAF book-and-claim pilot at launch, offering around 1 million gallons of SAF – enough to power almost 15,000 individual business traveler flights from London to New York.
Hit the ground, driving: With a surge of disruptions causing chaos at airports – aka “Airmageddon” – some business travelers are ditching their flight plans and hitting the road instead. Some professionals opt to drive up to seven hours to their meetings to avoid potential problems at the airport.
Striking out: Adding to the chaos at airports, Brussels Airlines workers hold a three-day strike for what they perceive as difficult working conditions, which creates a domino effect. Aviation workers across Europe go on strike throughout the summer and the latter half of 2022, causing a series of mass flight disruptions.
Lost but not always found: A combination of flight disruptions and a shortage of airport baggage handlers is causing the rate of luggage mishandled worldwide to rise – up 24% last year, with 8.7 suitcases per 1,000 international passengers not arriving on time. At Heathrow Airport, passengers complain of the reek from the pile of abandoned bags sitting in the airport terminals for up to 10 days. One traveler claims the bags “stink like a sun-roasted dumpster.”
Disruption managed: Amex GBT launches disruption management solutions to minimize friction. On top of automatically offering rebooking assistance the moment a flight’s been canceled or delayed, the service provides recommendations directly to travelers’ phones for alternative flights from a full range of suppliers. Travelers can connect with traveler counselors using WhatsApp, the Amex GBT Mobile app, or SMS channels.
Paying homage to the queen: Queen Elizabeth II dies in her Scottish estate, Balmoral. The funeral is likely to be the most-watched event in history. Amex GBT’s media team helps document the historic moment by getting our media clients to the places they need to be, booking countless flights and hotel rooms near Balmoral, Edinburgh, London, and Windsor so news crews can share the story with the world.
Open for tourism: After two and a half years of tight pandemic restrictions, some of Asia’s last holdouts are opening their borders. Hong Kong and Taiwan end their mandatory hotel quarantines, and Japan commits to dropping its daily limit on arrivals and fully opening its doors to tourists on October 11. Following suit, China later eases some of its zero-COVID travel policies.
Flying high: The Transportation Security Administration screens 2,494,757 million passengers, marking the first time since February 2020 that passenger numbers have reached that level. Also on the rise is the cost of flights. Airfares soared over 40% in September compared to the same month in 2021.
A first-class goodbye: American Airlines announces it will no longer sell first-class seating on international flights and plans to replace them with more business class seats. Some of the new seats, dubbed “Flagship Suites,” will offer customers a privacy door, a chaise lounge seating option, and more personal storage space.
Moving people when it matters most: In an ongoing partnership with Miles4Migrants, Amex GBT helps mobilize people who are displaced or facing persecution by assisting with their travel arrangements. According to internal data, we have helped 5,832 Afghan refugees relocate to their new homes in the United States and 994 Ukrainian refugees reach destinations throughout Canada in 2022 thus far. “This has been a great way for our travel counselors to use their skills and expertise to do good and drive progress,” said Wesam Kudhair, team lead, team coach support desk.
Start 2023 off right
Looking back at this rollercoaster year where the only constant was change, the value of a travel management partner becomes clear. Tighter budgets, environmental concerns, and greater travel and meeting needs next year can all be handled efficiently through an innovative travel management company. Amex GBT can provide you with technologies and services that align with your business and help you adapt to shifts in travel.