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The Boston-area consumer electronics company that Matt Nichols works for “used to fill up five to ten seats per week” on Cathay Pacific Airways’ non-stop flight to Hong Kong in business class and premium economy. His employer in late-January put a stop to non-essential travel because of the COVID-19 outbreak in China.

A little over a month later, travel that was once considered essential for running the company’s manufacturing doesn’t quite look that way anymore. “After COVID-19 I dare say we have come damn close to learning how to do it with much reduced travel,” said Nichols.

Related: Once scarce, coronavirus creates a glut of unneeded airliners

Similar bans on travel from corporations, non-profit organizations, academic institutions and governments have been put into effect. Travel cancellations have skyrocketed as conferences and events are postponed or curtailed. It’s not just business travel. One U.S. airline network planner said bookings to leisure travel markets like those in Florida are off more than 20% and another person briefed on the fallout at another U.S. carrier said there was a 35% decline in bookings from two weeks prior. Another transatlantic carrier said bookings outside of 14 days in advance had collapsed by some 80%.

Life, and flying to get there, is on hold.

But for the first time since the start of this global health crisis, industry leaders are quietly asking What if business traffic doesn’t come back? (To the same levels)

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Jon Ostrower is Editor-in-chief of The Air Current. Prior to launching TAC in June 2018, Ostrower served as Aviation Editor for CNN Worldwide, guiding the network's global coverage of the business and operations of flying. Ostrower joined CNN in 2016 following four and half years at the Wall Street Journal. Based first in Chicago and then in Washington, D.C. he covered Boeing, aviation safety and the business of global aerospace. Before that, Ostrower was editor of the award-winning FlightBlogger for Flightglobal and Flight International Magazine covering the development of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and other new aircraft programs from 2007 to 2012. Ostrower, a Boston native, graduated from The George Washington University's School of Media and Public Affairs with a bachelor's degree in Political Communication. He is based in Seattle.

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