According to a new survey, U.S. companies spent 16.5 percent less on air travel in 2001 than they did in 2000. Furthermore, says the survey, it's looking like business travel will continue to decline despite an economy that's been inching its way back from the past year's doldrums.

The just-released 2002 U.S. Business Travel Survey indicates that far from being reinvigorated by the upward-trending economy, business travel by air remains somewhat grounded. Some of the survey's findings: 60 percent of the 168 corporations responding to the survey said they plan to reduce travel spending again this year; 74 percent said some of their travel cutbacks may be permanent; 40 percent are considering reducing out-of-town meetings; 56 percent are making more use of conference calls as an alternative to travel; and 49 percent are using more Web-based conferencing tools.

Survey results also show many companies consider air fares to be too high, and that more business travelers are driving or taking trains to their out-of-town appointments rather than face longer lines and security hassles at airport.

The 2002 U.S. Business Travel Survey was sponsored by Unisys Corp. and conducted with the Association of Corporate Travel Executives.