The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant effect on flight booking lead times in the Asia Pacific (APAC) region since March 2020, reveals new flight booking data released today by Amadeus.
According to Amadeus’ first COVID-19 Travel Insights bulletin, flight bookings across the region have been made 17 days later on average during the pandemic, compared to the same period in 2018 and 2019.
The data released shows that Indian travelers appear to be the most last minute in the region when it comes to booking flights – making flight bookings on average only 10 days before their departure date between March-July 2020 – followed by Thai and Singaporean travelers, who have been making bookings on average 21 and 25 days prior to departure during the pandemic.
The Amadeus bulletin also found that overall booking lead times for international and domestic flights combined have decreased during the COVID-19 pandemic across all ten of the APAC countries that were studied*, except Malaysia where there has been no noticeable change.
India, Australia, Thailand and New Zealand have seen the most significant changes in traveler behavior, with decreases of 68%, 54%, 53% and 51% respectively in flight booking lead times compared to pre-COVID-19 levels. Even in Japan – where booking lead times have remained the longest in the region at 53 days – the booking window has still contracted by 14% compared to before the pandemic.
“We expected that a greater number of passengers would prefer to book last minute in light of the uncertainties and changing travel restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, and this has been borne out by our flight booking data across APAC,” said Cyril Tetaz, Executive Vice President, Airlines, Amadeus Asia Pacific. “This has significant ramifications for our industry as it looks to rebuild. For a start, airlines, hotels and tour operators now have a much shorter window of opportunity to engage travelers, and urgently need to adapt their marketing and business strategies to cater to the nuances of the last-minute market more than ever before.
“The old methods of using historical data to predict demand and income are no longer effective in the COVID-19 era, either; with so many bookings now left to the last minute, travel businesses will need to increasingly rely on real-time data instead, and build extra flexibility into every aspect of their day-to-day operations, so that resources, systems and services can be seamlessly scaled up and down as demand fluctuates at short notice, without having any impact on the traveler’s experience.”
Malaysia and the Philippines buck the trend in domestic travel
Amadeus’ COVID-19 Travel Insights bulletin also looked into the impact that the pandemic has had specifically on domestic flight bookings. Whilst most markets in the region followed a similar pattern of condensed lead times for domestic flights in the COVID-19 era, travelers in Malaysia and the Philippines have so far bucked this trend.
In recent months, Malaysian travelers in particular have been making domestic flight bookings much further ahead than they were typically doing before the pandemic hit – booking domestic flights, on average, 51 days ahead of their departure date between March-July 2020, compared to the country’s average booking lead time of 28 days for domestic flights prior to the COVID-19 outbreak.
According to Amadeus’ anonymized data, the same is true of Filipino travelers too, whose average booking lead time has increased by 22% for domestic flights during the pandemic.
“Whilst in general we have seen the same pattern of much shorter lead times on domestic flight routes in APAC, Malaysia and the Philippines are two important exceptions where travelers are actually booking domestic flights further ahead than they previously would have done. This could, in part, reflect particularly strong concerns from Malaysian and Filipino travelers about the safety of travel and the security of domestic bookings,” said Amadeus’ Tetaz. “Whatever the reason, travel companies in these markets will clearly need to go the extra mile to lure back hesitant domestic travelers, which is going to be a critical part of every country’s recovery, especially in the short-term.”