New flight booking data released by Amadeus, reveals that the COVID-19 pandemic has shortened flight booking lead times in the Asia Pacific (APAC) region significantly, with bookings made 17 days later on average during the pandemic, compared to the same period in 2018 and 2019.

The company found that overall booking lead times for international and domestic flights combined have decreased since March 2020 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 traveller behaviour, 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.

Indian travellers 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 travellers, who have been making bookings on average 21 and 25 days prior to departure during the pandemic.

Cyril Tetaz, EVP, Airlines, Amadeus Asia Pacific noted that the data confirms the expectation 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.

“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 travellers, and urgently need to adapt their marketing and business strategies to cater to the nuances of the last-minute market more than ever before,” he said. 

Tetaz added that the old methods of using historical data to predict demand and income are no longer effective in the COVID-19 era.

“Travel businesses will need to increasingly rely on reliable real-time data instead, and build 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 traveller’s experience,” he said

Malaysia and the Philippines buck the trend in domestic travel

Whilst most markets in the region followed a similar pattern of condensed lead times for domestic flights, travellers in Malaysia and the Philippines have so far bucked this trend.

In recent months, Malaysian travellers 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’ anonymised data, the same is true of Filipino travellers too, whose average booking lead time has increased by 22% for domestic flights during the pandemic.

“This could, in part, reflect particularly strong concerns from Malaysian and Filipino travellers about the safety of travel and the security of domestic bookings,” said Tetaz.

Sourced from Amadeus

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