Sabre: Late 2022 Corporate Travel Slowdown Was Temporary

Sabre’s corporate travel bookings faltered in the fourth quarter, but executives on Wednesday said trends have looked more promising throughout the first weeks of 2023.

Fourth-quarter bookings through Sabre’s global distribution system were 59 percent compared with the same period in 2019, Sabre president Kurt Ekert said in an earnings call on Wednesday. That equated to about 65 percent revenue recovery compared to 2019, due to higher revenue per booking, he said.

During the previous quarter, Sabre executives projected air booking recovery for the fourth quarter would be in the low 60 percent range, and weaker-than-expected bookings in November and December were largely responsible for the shortfall, CFO Mike Randolfi said. Factors including “airline and airport operational constraints, airline capacity limits and regional travel restriction” stalled recovery during the quarter, particularly with corporate travel and travel in the Asia/Pacific region, chairman and CEO Sean Menke said.

The executives called the setback temporary, saying both corporate travel and Asia/Pacific travel have begun to improve this year.

“To put numbers behind it, year-to-date recovery in our travel management company business is about 9 percentage points above December levels, and it has strengthened on a sequential weekly basis,” Ekert said. “We’re now realizing a return of group bookings coming out of Asia that are reminiscent of pre-Covid travel patterns.”

GDS bookings recovery through Feb. 9 has reached 62 percent of 2019 levels for that period, Ekert said. Randolfi said Sabre expects “a steady incremental recovery from where we are.”

Sabre’s distribution revenue during the quarter totaled $417 million, up 46 percent year over year, and global bookings net of cancellations were up 32 percent year over year to 76 million. Sabre’s average booking fee for the quarter was $5.49, indicating incremental improvement throughout each quarter of 2022, according to the company.

Sabre reported a net loss of $165 million for the quarter, compared with a net loss of $192 million in the fourth quarter of 2021. For the full year, Sabre’s net loss was $457 million, compared with a $950 million net loss in 2021.

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