Stressed out by men in suits? Avoid these airports.

Who travels for business?

Management Consultants. Managers. Attornies. Financiers. The list goes on. Business flyers are often willing to pay more for a luxurious flying experience – making them very valuable for airline companies. But, what routes do they take? Where do the suited-up professionals come from and where are they rushing to get to? These are questions that the general public did not have answers to until Severin Borenstein created the Business Travel Index Dataset for the year 1995. For our project, we wrapped this dataset in a package called bizindex and this blog will provide some key takeaways from the data. The dataset includes information on the proportion of trips made for business purposes by individual airports for both the destination and the origin, along with the total number of trips made.

We will first compare airports based on the proportion of business flyers using “maps”. The graph below shows the airport destinations for business flyers across the United States.

Airports are represented as points and the color shows the business travel index for that airport. A higher index means a higher proportion of business flyers. Notice that certain states have a uniformly high business travel index (Texas, Mississippi, Georgia) and that other states have a uniformly low business travel index (Alaska, Florida, Hawaii). This pattern largely agrees with our intuition: while a large share of people probably flies to Hawaii for the view and the beaches, the passengers traveling to Texas, Mississippi, and Georgia through commercial airlines are likely going to get some work done. Among the 991 airports reported in the data set, Honolulu Int’l Airport has the lowest business travel index (closely followed by Ted Stevens Anchorage Int’l Airport in Alaska), while Jackson-Medgar Wiley Evers Int’l Airport in Mississippi has the highest index (followed by both airports in Chicago, IL).

But, what about the airport origins? We see a similar pattern – commercial travel from some states is almost purely business-oriented (Mississippi) while for others, business travel is largely out of the culture (Oregon, Washington, Alaska, Hawaii). This has probably changed in recent years with the Pacific Northwest booming in startups, even with Portland trying hard to keep the Northwest weird. The high Mississippi index makes sense as the business travelers that arrive at a high rate, also then leave at a high rate – can’t blame them for wanting to leave! Looking at airports, Huntsville Int’l Airport in Alabama has the highest origin business travel index (followed by Piedmont Triad Int’l Airport), while Corpus Christi Int’l Airport in Texas has the lowest (followed by Eugene Airport in Oregon).

While business travelers hop on planes out of necessity, leisure travelers do so out of desire. The two groups are fundamentally different clientele for the airlines, and perhaps airports are different based on which group they serve the most. Next time you are flying, try looking up your airport’s index in bizindex and see if you can notice these differences. We would love to hear what you find!