According to WingX's latest monthly Business Aviation Monitor, the COVID crisis set off a dramatic fall in business aviation flight activity in March, with 36% fewer flights than in March 2019, some 23,000 fewer sectors year on year, taking the total Q1 trend down by 12% versus Q1 2019. The last 12-month trend has slipped down to -3%.
March 2020 marked the lowest level of monthly activity in Europe in the last 15 years, 32% below the trough level recorded in the wake of the financial crisis back in 2009. All the leading markets saw a very large drop in departures, with France seeing the largest absolute decline of over 3,000 sectors, and Italy relatively most affected with flights down 71%.
Across the busiest European cities for business aviation, London airports saw a 22% decline, Paris a 45% decline and Milan a more than 70% decline. The biggest declines across these and other leading airports were felt with large cabin aircraft; these movements were down by at least 40% YOY.
The charter market was affected slightly less than private flights, but still lost 30% of YOY activity. Sweden, Russia and Greece were the least affected, with the latter actually seeing a YOY increase in flight activity.
The trends in business jet flights between Europe and other regions of the world varied, with at least 30% declines in connections with Middle East and North America, a modest decline in connections with Asia, slightly improved on February, and an increase in flight connections with South America.
Large cabin jet activity declined more than any other segment in March, notably ultra and heavy jets. Super light activity was down by slightly less with 24% fewer flights YOY.
The biggest drops in activity this month showed up on the French, Austrian, US and Norwegian registers, with N-register activity falling 50% or more. Austrian and German register activity was down by relatively less than others.
There were very substantial declines at almost all the busiest business aviation airports in Europe in March 2020. The top airport Paris Le Bourget (LFPB) saw departures fall by 45% YOY. Moscow Vnukovo (UUWW), London Biggin Hill (EGKB), Palma de Mallorca (LEPA) and Malaga (LEMG) were relatively less affected during the month. The declines applied across all aircraft categories, although lighter aircraft were less negatively affected. Large jet activity fell >50% at Le Bourget, Nice, Vienna and Berlin Schonefeld.
Richard Koe, managing director of WINGX, comments: “The 30% fall in flights this month marks the lowest monthly level of activity in the last 15 years, and furthermore the full month trend significantly understates the trending decline which was closer to 70% in the second half of March. Indeed, in the first half of March, charter operators benefited from strong growth in repatriation demand, but by the end of the month all operator types were suffering similarly very steep levels of decline. We anticipate continued very high levels of reduction in YOY flights through April.”