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WingX data illustrates slight dip at back end of July
There was a good deal of optimism in business aviation in mid July, as flights were largely back to 85 per cent of normal. Unfortunately things have tailed off in the second half of the month, though Germany has rallied.

According to the latest WingX weekly Global Market Tracker, global business aviation traffic has lost over 86,000 sectors so far in July compared to the same period in 2019, which equates to a 20 per cent decline, an improvement on the 30 per cent deficit in June YOY, but a step backwards from mid-July when activity was approaching 85 per cent of last year's volumes.

This reversal is clearest in the US, where seven-day average daily activity has slipped from 7,300 sectors at the start of the month to around 6,800 in recent days. The declines are weighted towards weekdays, down by at least a quarter compared to weekends, where sectors are more robust. For North America as a whole, the July activity trend is -23 per cent month-to-date, which reflects softening activity in Canada and Mexico.

Several US states have reversed course on reopening the economy in July as virus infections have surged. This is the main brake on recovery in flight activity, with business aviation flights in California, Texas, Michigan and North Carolina stalled at 20 per cent below, and New York activity still stubbornly down by a third YOY. The East Coast hubs are really struggling, with White Plains almost 40 per cent down for the month and Teterboro still 60 per cent shy of normal July activity. Gains in YOY activity out of Florida and Arizona persevere, but they are barely one per cent up YOY. Palm Beach is an outlier, with activity gains of 20 per cent. There are some other exceptions, with flights out of Aspen up by 18 per cent this month, Denver only two per cent down, Salt Lake City two per cent up and Van Nuys airport seeing resilient activity, with flights trailing by 6 per cent so far in July.

The European market continues to see stronger recovery in July, with regional activity now only 14 per cent down, and just six per cent down in the last seven days. France has registered over 10,000 flights in the month, 12.5 per cent under par, and Germany is just 2.5 per cent below normal for July. Switzerland has a similarly flat trend, and several countries, namely Austria, Belgium and Croatia, are seeing more flights this month than in July 2019. Spain has shown the strongest recovery this month, with the domestic market, comprising 40 per cent of its traffic, seeing more than 10 per cent growth. Mallorca's flights are up 22 per cent and Ibiza is only eight per cent under par this month. UK visits to Spain are up 12 per cent, arrivals from Switzerland are up 29 per cent and from Germany there has been a 40 per cent growth. This picture may change in the next week, following the re-imposition of UK quarantine on travellers to Spain.

Elsewhere in Europe, Nice is back in action, with flights recovered to 83 per cent of normal. Le Bourget is still trailing but now only 31 per cent behind. Swiss airports are seeing much improved activity, with Geneva flat YOY and Zurich just 1.5 per cent adrift. The Russian market has been fairly robust, at eight per cent below normal, and Vnukovo is recovering, with flights down by 12 per cent. UK, Italy and Greece are the wayward countries; even leisure hubs like Olbia are down by a quarter for business aviation arrivals. The UK's top airport, Farnborough is still in the dumps, with flights down 40 per cent. Biggin Hill has taken second spot from Luton, with flights up at 94 per cent of normal. Arrivals into Greece are 35 per cent adrift, with top tourist spots like Mykonos seeing 50 per cent fewer business aviation visits.

Outside Europe and the US, business aviation flight activity is lagging in Africa and Middle East, where activity is a third behind usual levels, with recovery stalling at 85 per cent of normal in Asia and 95 per cent in Oceania. In those regions, China's activity has oscillated around 10 per cent below par, and the Australian market is just a couple of points off usual levels. Elsewhere, recorded business aviation activity in Brazil and Columbia is up YOY. India is only a little adrift, the UAE has seen a 17 per cent increase in flight activity this month, but Saudi Arabia continues to slump, at 40 per cent below levels last July.

The global footprint by aircraft type continues to emphasise the resilience of lighter aircraft, with very light jets flying at 93 per cent of normal levels and light jets down by only 12.5 per cent. The super light sector is off by 18 per cent. The decline steepens to 20 per cent in the midsize segment, and heavy jet operations trail by over 30 per cent, with ultra-long range jets flying 35 per cent less so far in July. The redoubtable PC12 continues to fly most missions, with the Citation Excel/XLS the busiest jet, with its sectors down by 20 per cent. The most resilient business jet types are Challenger 300/350 and Phenom 300, flying 15 per cent fewer sectors this July.

WingX managing director Richard Koe comments: “The recovery in business aviation activity has taken a knock as travel restrictions persist, but the sector is still showing much more resilience than the scheduled sector; business aviation trends are heading towards a 20 per cent decline for the US in July, in stark contrast to the 50 per cent deficit in airline connections.

“The recovery in Europe has released pent-up demand slightly later, just in time for peak summer season. Unfortunately, unpredictable quarantine interventions have probably already introduced sufficient uncertainty to limit the extent of that recovery in the second half of the summer.”

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