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First Class bookings double in 2023 while economy travel descends

Businesses defy recession fears: First Class bookings double in 2023, Economy travel descends


More business travellers are flying in First Class and Business in 2023 than in 2022, according to new data released by Corporate Traveller, Australia’s leading travel management company for SMEs and a division of the Flight Centre Travel Group. 


The company compared booking data on flight seat preferences from the last half of 2022 (July-December) and the first half of 2023 (January-June), covering Economy, Premium Economy, Business, and First-Class seats. 


The data shows bookings have more than doubled for First Class seats (107%) and increased by a quarter (26%) for Business bookings. Conversely, Premium Economy seats were down 41 per cent and Economy bookings decreased by a fifth (20%).


The data comes amid financial uncertainty and fear of a recession in the coming months, with almost half (46%) of Australian business leaders saying they expect a recession in 2023.[1]


Tom Walley, Corporate Traveller’s Australian-based Global Managing Director, says that while the results are surprising considering the current climate, they demonstrate stability and signs of growth in Australian businesses. 


“There’s no doubt the economy is fragile, and a lot of people and businesses are feeling the pinch at the moment, but this data is a positive sign for our SME sector – the backbone of our economy. For many, flying isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity for business success and survival.


“First Class bookings have doubled over the past year, and traditionally cheaper seats - Economy and Premium Economy - are lower. This shift in travel preferences shows that business travel remains a priority for SMEs, and that businesses have room in their budgets to pay for luxury on their trips.”


Corporate Traveller also revealed seat selection data for the period between January and June 2022, following the reopening of international borders. 


The data showed a considerable jump in Economy and Premium Economy bookings at that time, at 30 per cent and 62 per cent respectively. Whereas Business and First Class bookings for business travel fell by around a quarter (26% and 23%) in the same period. 


Tom explains, “This spending behaviour can be put down to a sense of trepidation shared by businesses who were starting to travel again after the pandemic. Businesses were being more cautious with their choice of seat selection; in fear they would have to cancel last minute. 


“This makes the findings from the more recent set of data, particularly the huge rise in First Class bookings, even more encouraging. It shows just how far the SME sector and the travel industry have come in a year – with confidence bouncing back strongly.”


Seat selection

Increase in bookings between Jan-Jun 2022 and Jul-Dec 2022 

Increase in bookings between Jul-Dec 2022 and Jan-Jun 2023




Premium Economy






First Class





Corporate Traveller is an award-winning business travel management and solutions provider for SMEs, operating in six global markets. Established in 1993 as Flight Centre Travel Group’s first corporate brand, Corporate Traveller has offered its personalised service, expert tailored advice, dedicated travel consultants, and advanced booking technology to more than 6500 Australian business customers. Offering an all-in-one innovative booking platform with the support of a personal travel consultant, Corporate Traveller makes travel simpler, faster, and easier for businesses.

With a wide range of solutions available, Corporate Traveller can cater for simple requirements through to the most complex SME business travel management needs. For more information or to book a business consultation, visit 
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