When will business travel return?

Two years into the pandemic and the airline industry remains on standby for the return of business travelers.

Expectations that expense account-wielding road warriors would follow on the heels of leisure travelers have yet to materialize, and the outlook remains hazy with the spread of the latest coronavirus variant. That’s kept carriers’ profits in check and raised questions over whether the change is just a cyclical blip or a structural deviation.

Southwest Airlines Co.’s top executive rued the slow rebound in business travel in an earnings call Thursday and hinted that the pace of recovery may continue to be slower