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Business Air News Bulletin
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Pockets of resilience appear amid virus downturn
WingX managing director Richard Koe gives us a rundown of flight activity in the Latin American region, where Mexico has been the most severely affected. Colombia has bucked the trend and is reporting increased flights.
Richard Koe.
Read this story in our July 2020 printed issue.

As with other global regions, all flight activity in Latin America has seen an acute downturn since the impact of the pandemic in mid-March 2020. The impact on scheduled aviation has been much more severe than in business aviation; scheduled sectors are still trending 70 per cent below normal, whereas business aviation flights in the region are some 40 per cent below par.

The business aviation sector in Latin America was less affected initially, compared to the United States, due to relatively lightweight virus suppression in key markets, notably Brazil and Mexico.

But increasingly severe virus contagion, especially in Mexico, has limited the recovery in flight activity since then, in contrast to the US market which has rebounded to within 20 per cent of normality in the latest month.

In the first half of 2020, total business aviation activity in the Latin America region was down by over 40 per cent compared to last year. In June flight activity lagged June 2019 by almost 50 per cent. These trends compare to a global decline of 31 per cent for business aviation flights in the first half of the year, and 29 per cent year-on-year decline for June, recovering from 50 per cent worldwide declines in May and a 70 per cent collapse in April.

Mexico has been the most severely affected market in Latin America, with June’s business aviation flight activity down by close to 60 per cent year-on-year. In particular, flights between Mexico, Caribbean and the United States have been severely curtailed. Within Mexico, June continued to register large deficits in flight activity at key airports like Toluca, Monterey and Guadalajara. However there are signs of recovery in US pairs, notably with Texas.

The next biggest markets, Brazil and Colombia, have been relatively resilient, with Brazil’s traffic down just 1 per cent for the year, and flights from Colombia actually increasing in the first six months of 2020.

Argentina's jet-centric business aviation fleet flew 12 per cent less in June, improving steadily since the trough in April. In contrast, extended lockdowns in Ecuador, Chile and Peru are reflected in still very low levels of activity.

Also heavily affected are the main centres of business aviation activity across the Caribbean: St. Barts, Curacao, Aruba, Sint Maarten, although Guadeloupe is showing good recovery. Further north, flights to and from Bahamas and Bermuda are down 70 per cent, but Antigua is back up to 70 per cent of normal and flights to and from the Virgin Islands were flat YOY in June.

In terms of business aviation aircraft, the impact has been greatest on large cabin jets. For example, the region’s workhorse large jet, Challenger 600 platform, is flying more than 50 per cent less. Top regional OEM, Embraer, is seeing its Legacy, Praetor and Phenom fleets operating at around 70 per cent of normal. But by far the most resilient segment is turboprop, with King Air 200, 350, PC-12 and Cessna Caravans within 20 per cent of normal activity across the region.

WingX MD Richard Koe says: “It is no surprise to us to see business aviation flight activity tanking in the region at the height of the first wave of the pandemic in April and May, and as many countries are only now starting to see the peak of the contagion, lockdown measures have largely remained in place, stifling the recovery in travel demand, unlike in other global regions. But it's encouraging to see pockets of resilience, and we expect these to grow as the virus comes under control and the tourist sector starts to adapt to ongoing suppression measures.”

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