The UK was one of Airplus’ fastest growing markets last year as the corporate card provider saw a 14 per cent growth in travel bookings through its products.

The Germany-based company said that the UK was one of the four fastest-growing markets in 2012 alongside China, the US and Italy.

The majority of Airplus’ growth in the UK came from winning new business rather than any real growth in the business travel market.

Airplus’ UK managing director Yael Klein said: “We had quite a successful year in the UK with good year-on-year growth – mainly due to new business.

“We saw a spike in activity from customers at the beginning of last year and then it evened off for the rest of the year, although we are no longer seeing any real dips.”

Airplus saw global sales from its cards increase by €1 billion to €11.4 billion in 2012 which represented a 10 per cent rise across all of the company’s products.

But despite this increase in spending, revenue was flat for Airplus at €288 million due to the one-off costs of a restructuring of the ownership of the Airplus Austria joint venture. However, operating profit rose by 27 per cent to €38.8 million.

Managing director Patrick Diemer described 2012 as a “very good year for Airplus” with “strong growth across our markets” including emerging regions such as Asia Pacific and Latin America.

“The UK development is very good and we are very proud of this market,” added Diemer. “Globally we have seen an increase in spend of nearly 3 per cent but there has been 1 per cent less travel, so clients are having to spend more for their air and train tickets they buy.”

Airplus has also revealed research showing that average flight prices in the UK had increased by 21 per cent over the last four years from an average of £371 in 2009 to £448 last year.

Klein said: “Flight fares will increase – slowly but surely they are creeping up. Class of travel remains consistent – people still travel in economy in the majority of cases. Travel managers fought hard in 2008 to establish new travel policies to tighten the rules and they are sticking to their guns.”

Airplus has also carried a survey of British travel managers as part of a wider global poll of 2,101 buyers.

“We have found that customers no longer want to stop travelling – they have learnt from the recession that travel is vital for survival because they need to travel to drive sales,” said Klein.

“But they are stopping unnecessary trips for colleagues to meet and have a chat – they now want to do this on the phone. It’s now more acceptable to say we are not travelling for internal meetings and only travel when it’s really needed.

“There has not been an increase in travel spend in the first quarter of 2013 and travellers expect this to stay the same. They do not foresee an increase in travel expenses this year.”

The survey also found that the majority of UK travel managers (74 per cent) said that their travel suppliers were not working together effectively.

Klein said: “It’s actually quite sad that only 26 per cent of travel buyers see suppliers collaborating in a professional manner. This is lower than all of our other markets.

“This is something that we have to tackle as customers don’t seem to be satisfied with what is going on.”



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