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US Labor Day proves a damp squib for private flights
Labor Day is usually a hive of activity in the US but this year there has been a drop of 5,000 flights, with connections to Canada way down. Europe has displayed some resilience, with Germany down only one per cent.

According to WingX's weekly Global Market Tracker, 90,000 business jet and turboprop flights have been operated in the first eight days of September, an eight per cent decline versus the same period in September 2019 and a deficit of around 7,000 flights. Comparing the last eight days with comparable days in 2019, the delta is twice as large at just under 16 per cent YOY. The most recent rolling seven-day average is 11,273 daily flight departures, down from the post-March high point of 11,728 flights, but well above the April trough of 3,500 flights per day. Since 1 March, global business aviation flights are down 35 per cent compared to last year. This trend is still far more resilient than scheduled aviation, which is 64 per cent behind last year's activity since March and still 57 per cent off so far this month.

7 September marked Labor Day 2020 in the USA when the TSA noted the largest number of scheduled passengers handled at US airports since March, even though this was less than half the usual volume. Business aviation activity, for the comparable Friday to Monday, was down by 16 per cent, a drop of 5,000 flights. Flights within the US over the four days were down 19 per cent, connections with Canada were down 65 per cent, Mexico was only four per cent off and there were big YOY increases in flights from the US to Bahamas and Turks and Caicos. A handful of US states saw some increase in flight activity during the holiday, namely Idaho, Oregon, Montana, which saw significant growth, and Virginia. At an airport level, the biggest YOY increases were recorded at Salt Lake International, Dallas Love Field and Denver Centennial.

In Europe, where just under 20 per cent of worldwide business aviation flights have operated this month, the August surge has given way to a decline as the summer ends. Comparing 1-8 September, jet and prop flights are down by 3.5 per cent, or nine per cent on a comparable day basis. In contrast, scheduled aviation activity is down 56 per cent in Europe so far this September. For business aviation, this month is seeing a relapse in activity from top market France, and a slump in flight activity from the UK and Spain, which are 18 per cent and 24 per cent respectively adrift of September 2019. Flights from Germany are down just one per cent so far this month, but this stands in contrast to its double-digit growth in August. Austria has so far sustained its summer YOY growth and Croatia is still benefitting from late summer leisure travel, but arrivals into Greece are down by 13 per cent. The biggest YOY growth trends are apparent in Turkey and Russia.

The busiest airport in Europe is, as usual, Le Bourget, but activity is trending down 22 per cent for September. Likewise, there are now steep declines for Nice, with Geneva also seeing the end of its late summer surge. Farnborough and Luton are still trailing by 20 per cent, in contrast to Biggin Hill, which has carried its record August activity through into September with flights up by 15 per cent in the first eight days of the month. Vnukovo, Olbia, Munich, Ataturk and Vienna are other airports with large gains compared to September 2019. In terms of connections, international flights have seen the biggest slowdown, with flights between Italy and the UK being one of the few exceptions. Domestic travel is still showing some buoyancy, with growth in business aviation flying within Germany, France, Sweden and Italy. Flights within the UK are down by 13 per cent YOY.

North America, with declines in both Canada and Mexico being steeper than in the US, and Europe, are easily the worst-performing global regions for business aviation activity in September. Other regions, which capture less than 10 per cent of total business jet sectors, are stable or above 2019 activity levels. In terms of fleet application, 91 per cent of last year's globally active fleet has flown so far this month. Light jets are the motor for the recovery, with 28 per cent of all sectors flown and at 98 per cent of September 2019 activity. Very light jets are also in demand, at three per cent under par. In Europe, Citation Mustang flights are up by nine per cent so far this month. It's still a very different story for the large cabin jets, however, with heavy and ultra long-range jet sectors down by over 20 per cent. Gulfstream 600/650 activity is down 18 per cent, while Falcon 900 sectors are down by 30 per cent.

WingX MD Richard Koe comments: “Predictably, the end of the summer holidays saw a drop-off in leisure flying and, with scant corporate travel to make up the difference, overall business aviation flight activity has already started to soften in September. The resurgent virus has pushed governments into slowing, and in some cases reversing, the opening of the economy, and the result is likely to be a deterioration in further demand as the month goes on. It's still an open question how much of the corporate travel demand that remains is able and willing to switch from scheduled to business aviation.”

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