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LunaJets' 2019 growth bucks industry trend
No snow means no show around Europe's airports, and Brexit uncertainty may have put off some travellers. But despite a slight downturn in European business aviation, LunaJets' charter brokerage remained healthy.
Alain Leboursier says LunaJets has remained the number one independent charter broker in Europe.

The European market proved to be challenging for private operators, airports and charter brokers in 2019. According to business aviation research company WINGX Live, the total number of business jets that took off from all European airports, including Russia, dipped by 2.3 per cent last year to settle at just under a half a million, at 494,436 departures.

Despite a good start to the year, which saw the number of take offs increase by 6.3 per cent in the first quarter of 2019 versus same period one year ago, the number of flights was down 4.4 per cent over the next three quarters of last year. Geneva-based LunaJets founder and CEO Eymeric Segard says: “While there are multiple reasons for this downturn in Europe, some key factors standout for 2019: uncertainty surrounding Brexit; economic trade tensions between the US and China overflowing into Europe; no global quadrennial sports event of international reach; and lack of snow at the end of the year before the holidays.”

Over the same geography and period, LunaJets was able sustain its growth for the twelfth year in a row, with flights increasing 14.7 per cent in 2019.

The top six European airports with the most traffic remain unchanged in 2019; Le Bourget, Nice, Geneva, London Luton, London Farnborough and Zurich, yet all but one saw negative annual growth according to WINGX Live. While Paris, represented by Le Bourget, is the single most important city in number of departures with just under 20,000 take offs in 2019, London and its five principal airports takes first place as a city with a total of 30,000 departures last year.

The only airport in the top six that showed growth last year was Farnborough, up 6.7 per cent, while the other five saw a decrease in growth of between two and seven per cent. Farnborough's results can in part be explained by the fact that Northolt airport, in relative proximity, was closed for refurbishment for most of 2019.

WINGX Live reports that departures in Switzerland for 2019 were down 6.6 per cent in Geneva, down 6.7 per cent in Zurich and down 8.8 per cent in Basel.

LunaJets saw increases in its year-on-year take offs to London and Zurich, while flights were down slightly and flat to Le Bourget and Nice respectively.

The three favoured destinations for the top six airports are, little surprise, Le Bourget, Geneva and Nice. The one notable exception is for travellers from Nice, whose number two destination is Vnukovo in Moscow, and this for a second year in a row.

In the case of LunaJets, the top three European cities for both departures and arrivals were London, Geneva and Paris.

Summer months usually prove to be excellent for jet chartering companies and airports alike, but this was not the case in 2019. Head of sales and development Alain Leboursier says: “In a time of market contraction, we worked especially hard to keep LunaJets' growth up during the past summer. We were able to outperform the industry from May through August. We actually reached our first peak in July with 19 per cent more departures from Europe versus 2018, while the industry average shrank three per cent.”

The disappointing spring and summer months (Q2 and Q3) hurt virtually every single one of the top six European airports with the clear exception of Farnborough, which saw growth every month from May through October. In July and September 2019, for instance, Farnborough grew 17 per cent year-over-year in terms of number of flight departures.

Another sign that 2019 was a challenging year can be seen in average length of flights in the European market. Last year, the average flight lasted one hour and 36 minutes, slipping two per cent from 2018. LunaJets bucked this trend, and Leboursier adds: “LunaJets' own flight duration average was slightly up last year versus one year ago and, in addition, our flights are slightly longer than the industry average. We are now flying our clients to even farther destinations across Europe, the US, the Middle East and beyond.”

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