According to WingX's weekly Global Market Tracker, European business aviation users galvanised the market in August, lifting activity three per cent above traffic levels in August 2019, the equivalent of 1,845 additional sectors flown.
Flight hours were down, attesting to the shorter sector trend throughout the recovery. There was also a dip in activity mid-month, coinciding with a raft of unexpected travel quarantines, but by the end of the month, average seven-day daily activity was at 2,344 flights, almost six times the the low point back in April. For the period from April to September, European business aviation activity is still down by 34 per cent compared to 2019, but that compares favourably to commercial airline traffic, which is 77 per cent down over the same period.
The continued recovery in business jet and prop activity in Europe is coming from stalwart markets in Germany, Switzerland and Austria, with France maintaining YOY improvement throughout the month. Turkey and especially Russia have seen a big turnaround in flight activity during August, well ahead of August 2019. Central European markets like Czech Republic are also well up. Croatia stands out as the European summer hotspot for August, although flight connections have faded fast since quarantines were imposed late in the month. Elsewhere, activity to and from Sweden was 10 per cent down in August, with international connections far below normal. Greece was also 10 per cent behind this month, but has recovered fast in the last fortnight, apparently the most popular late summer holiday destination.
August was a faltering month for business aviation recovery in North America, with the month ending 21 per cent behind August 2019. The US domestic market has done slightly better, back up to 81 per cent of normal activity for the full month. The US trend fell away in the second half of August, with the month ending with a rolling seven-day average of 7,347 flights, five per cent down on the traffic we saw mid-month. Weekend travel has been strongest, with activity above 90 per cent of normal activity this month, whereas weekday travel is stalling at 80 per cent of usual levels. California and Texas are back to being the busiest US states, flying almost a third of all US sectors in August, but still lagging 16 per cent behind YOY activity. The full-month trend confirms stagnant trends on the east coast, strong growth to getaway locations, from Utah to Wyoming, with Florida treading water 8% below. The stand-out decline this month is Hawaii with traffic levels down by 65 per cent YOY.
The busiest airport worldwide this month was Dallas Love Field, averaging around 100 daily departures, almost 10 per cent up YOY. Normally the global hub for business jet travel, Teterboro is amongst worst affected by the pandemic, gradually recovering to 50 per cent of normal activity this month. Airports across the ‘getaway’ states, such as Aspen, Scottsdale, Centennial and Salt Lake, have impressive seen growth rates. Flights from the United States to various Caribbean destinations, such as Turks and Caicos, Dominican Republic, US Virgin Islands and St Martin. are also well up this month.
Back in Europe, its busiest airport Nice registered almost 70 departures a day, seven per cent below normal. It was the busiest ever August for business aviation activity at a select few European airports including Biggin Hill, Bodrum, Vnukovo and Zurich. Meanwhile the main hubs continued to struggle, with both Le Bourget and Luton seeing 15 per cent less traffic this month YOY.
Worldwide, the PC-12 was the busiest business aviation aircraft, flying over 1,000 sectors a day, eight per cent down YOY. Specialist Australian PC-12 operator Royal Flying Doctor Service logged a 30 per cent increase in YOY sectors in August. Jetfly's PC-12 fleet was much busier in Europe this August than last year, although PlaneSense, the leading US PC-12 operator, was some way behind its YOY trend. The busiest jet worldwide in August was the Challenger 300, recording over 15,000 sectors, three quarters of them within the United States, but still down by 12 per cent YOY. Flexjet was the busiest Challenger 300 operator and has maintained its YOY growth rate since June. In Europe, there was a significant increase in Challenger 300 charter flights, especially within the UK, France and Germany.
WingX MD Richard Koe comments: “August saw the overall market edge further towards recovery, with a marked variation between Europe and the US. Further ahead in the pandemic curve, European countries have substantially opened their economies, and belatedly, tourism has been rebooted. With June and July flights concentrated into a short August window, YOY activity is consequently higher. The US market is still some way behind, but as the public health crisis recedes, there may now be a quicker upturn. The imminent US Labor Day holiday may provide some evidence for that.”