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Flight stats show a business aviation uptick in early July
Although performance and flight hours varies starkly from region to region, the latest numbers from WingX Advance feature a fair amount of optimism. Central Europe is recovering well, as is Australasia.

Most travel restrictions for flights between countries in Europe have been lifted since the start of this month, and the result has been a much stronger recovery in all aviation activity, according to WingX's weekly Global Market Tracker.

Business aviation is still far out-pacing commercial airlines, with its sectors coming within 15 per cent of normal through the first through weeks of July, in contrast to airlines, which lag behind July 2019 activity by more than 60 per cent. Central Europe is seeing the strongest regional recovery, with business aviation activity in Germany and Switzerland within five per cent of normal, and flights from Austria up by nine per cent compared to July last year, reflecting the relaunch of the Grand Prix season with two consecutive events at the Red Bull ring in Austria.

July is Europe's key month for business aviation activity, and typically has a 15 per cent share of full year traffic, much higher for the main summer resorts in the Mediterranean area. This year the summer season has been truncated but the reopened borders have released pent-up demand, with business aviation flights to and from Spain down only two per cent so far this month. Ibiza is still suffering, with flights down by 10 per cent, which is unsurprising given the restrictions on its signature party scene. But Malaga's business aviation activity is up by eight per cent, and business aviation arrivals into Majorca are actually up 20 per cent, representing an additional six flights a day compared to July 2019. Seville, Alicante and Jerez are also all growing. Spain's recovery is still mainly in domestic traffic, but German, Swiss and Dutch tourists are now leading the return in international visitors.

A mixed recovery exists elsewhere in Europe: business aviation flights into Belgium this month are up 13 per cent YOY, boosted by the just-completed European summit. The UK is doing better since the quarantine lifted on 10 July but still lags the rest of Europe, with flights trailing 37 per cent YOY. Italy is similarly trailing, for example Olbia arrivals are down 32 per cent YOY, and the vast majority of its traffic still domestic. France has regained the top country spot, with activity down just 14 per cent, but notably flight hours are down 23 per cent. Excluding turboprops, business jet traffic is up for flights within Turkey, Russia and Germany, and notably up YOY for flights from UK to Spain. Nice is Europe's business jet hotspot as usual, with flights recovering to 81 per cent of normal, but Le Bourget's activity is still 40 per cent under par. Cannes is a bright spot, with business aviation traffic up 5 per cent in July.

Across the pond, the US market, which had been powering the recovery in global business aviation in May and June, is treading water so far in July. In fact the rolling seven-day average daily activity has fallen from 7,300 flights at the start of the month to 6,800 at the latest date. Partly this reflects the reset since Independence Day, this year falling at the weekend, last year on a weekday. Two of the busiest US states, California and Texas, are close to the national trend at 20 per cent below normal. There's still some momentum in Florida, with flights up five per cent YOY. Arizona is staying ahead, with one per cent more flights this July than last, and Colorado just one per cent down. But New York still trails 32 per cent behind, and business aviation activity out of New Jersey is barely back to 50 per cent of normal levels.

Year on year growth in July activity in the US is centred around a few key resorts and their closest metro access: Aspen, Jackson Hole, Eagle and Salt Lake City, West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale, Scottsdale and Phoenix. Major metro hubs like Chicago, Las Vegas, Washington are seeing 30 per cent less traffic across their airports this month. The East Coast did get some uplift from Independence Day traffic between White Plains, Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard. Recovery in business jet activity on the West Coast has been curbed with the renewed lockdown since 14 July, with Burbank, Oakland and Los Angeles some 30 per cent down in July. Notably, Van Nuys activity is only seven per cent down, and Carlsbad activity is up so far this month. The busiest business jet in California this month is the Challenger 300/350, with activity up one per cent YOY.

Outside the US and Europe, the busiest business aviation markets are Brazil, Australia, China, India and UAE. Although these markets represent only a fraction of global activity, YOY trends are back to normal for Australia and India, and up in Brazil and UAE. Also Nigeria has some growth in business jet activity in July, with Malaysia and South Africa two other countries to have regained ground this month. Business aviation flight activity in China is trailing by 16 per cent, Japan is down by 28 per cent, and Saudi Arabia is amongst the worst-affected countries, with flights down by 45 per cent. Australasia is the most 'normalised' region, with some Australian airports, notably Perth and Melbourne, seeing strong growth this month. New Zealand has successfully contained the virus but business aviation flights are still down by seven per cent YOY.

WingX MD Richard Koe says: “The European region is ahead of the US on the pandemic curve and has regained the initiative in terms of recovery in business aviation, although not in scheduled airline activity. Both regions have seen leisure market rebounds in business aviation; the US bounce-back now stalled by secondary lockdown in California, the European region released as quarantines lift. Business aviation is also offering more attractive connectivity, with flights to Majorca a representative example: business aviation arrivals are up 20% in July, no doubt partly owing to the 64% drop in airline connections to the same location.”

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