According to WingX's weekly Global Market Tracker, the resumption of the Grand Prix circuit in Austria on 5 and 12 July provided a window on the recovery in business aviation in Europe. Business aviation activity in and out of the four closest airports to the Red Bull Ring came to 76 flights during the race days, compared to 178 last year, a 58 per cent YOY decline. However, the Styrian GP, which was held on 12 July, attracted a further 84 movements, so the two events combined were only 15 per cent down on the main event last year. There were many fewer flights to the event this year from within Austria, especially Vienna, and there was also less interest from the UK, but about the same number from France and slightly more visitors from Germany. Overall, business aviation flights in all of Austria were up 6 per cent YOY in the first fortnight of July.
Stepping back, the recovery in global business aviation continues, albeit bumpily. The trend through the first two weeks of July shows a 19 per cent decline compared to the first fortnight of July 2019. Rolling seven-day average daily activity has peaked at just under 16,000 flights this month, compared to the low-point of under 4,000 in April 2020. North America has somewhat stabilised at 20 per cent below par in July, and Europe is now clearly driving the recovery, with flights at 82 per cent of usual July activity. Oceania seems to have normalised at 10 per cent below, and activity out of Asia is treading water 23 per cent below. Since the start of the year, global business aviation activity is down by 31 per cent, and since mid-March, activity has dropped 47 per cent. Comparably, worldwide scheduled airline sectors are down 75 per cent since mid-March.
The US was the key recovery market in May and June, and that showed up around Independence Day celebrations during which comparable day analysis showed growth in YOY business jet departures. The recent surge in virus infections particularly in the south and west of the country is somewhat blunting the ongoing recovery, but even so, through the first two weeks of this month, the overall deficit is only 17 per cent YOY. Florida is still up this month versus July 2019, Arkansas is flat again, while Utah also has seen some growth. New York is down 26 per cent, New Jersey is 46 per cent below and although California is the busiest state so far this month, with activity at 85 per cent of usual, we can expect a sharp decline as lockdown policies are re-imposed.
In Europe pent-up demand has been released since the opening of the Schengen borders in mid-June and the ending of most country quarantines at the start of July. Besides Austria, other resilient markets include Croatia, which also has 5 per cent growth year on year, Spain at just 1 per cent off July 2019 activity, Switzerland and Turkey within 5 per cent off normal levels and Germany 8 per cent below par. International borders have clearly opened up, with a small increase in flights between France and Switzerland. Scandinavian markets have stood still in the last month, with flights still trailing by over 20 per cent, and the UK and Greece remain the laggards, with activity 40 per cent down for July. The UK relaxed its quarantine measures from 10 July, and although flights are down 41 per cent vs July 2019, seven-day activity has lifted 38 per cent since the first of the month.
Globally, the business aviation recovery continues to be characterised by demand for smaller aircraft; sectors flown in first two weeks of July on light jets are only 8 per cent down year on year, and in the US, these and very light jet flights are busier in 2020 than in 2019. Medium business jet activity is improving, with the SMJ segment within 85 per cent of normal activity this month. Heavy jet flights are down by 30 per cent and ultra long range jet sectors lagging at 36 per cent below par. The PC-12 remains the busiest aircraft type at 87 per cent of normal activity, with Nantucket and Denver the busiest PC-12 airports this month. Amongst the business jets, the Phenom 300 and Challenger 300 are busiest, globally within 10 per cent off par and just 5 per cent off in the US.
MD Richard Koe “So far this summer, the overall recovery in global business aviation activity is persisting despite the rise in global infections and the bumpiness in lockdown policies. The European summer season is the big driver, now that most regional quarantines are lifted, with promising trends in Central Europe. We expect that to follow around the Mediterranean in the next few weeks. The bigger question mark is around the US recovery, where renewed restrictions and its economic repercussions could slow or reverse the flight activity recently regained.”