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Traffic data: Stunted September is still superior to summer
September flying is down by 12 per cent YOY, says WingX, but the figures are noticeably improved from June, July and August. For business aviation, 65 per cent of global activity in September has been US-based.

Global business aviation movements are trending down by 12 per cent so far in September, an improvement on the YOY declines of 20 per cent, 18 per cent and 16 per cent for June, July and August respectively.

According to WingX's weekly Global Market Tracker, business aviation activity continues to be more resilient than commercial aviation, with commercial sectors down 57 per cent and 60 per cent respectively for the US and Europe this month, a deterioration on some very limited recovery in August. For business aviation, 65 per cent of global activity in September has been US-based, with YOY trends wavering at around 13 per cent below YOY. In Europe, the next busiest market, activity has slid back this month with business aviation sectors six per cent behind September 2019, in contrast to the three per cent bounce in August.

Charter demand is buoying the recovery in flight activity in the US; flight hours by branded charter operators are down 12 per cent for the year but have bounced back in the summer and are up four per cent so far this month. The regional pattern is varied, with charter operations way behind at what are historically the busiest airports like Teterboro, McCarran Las Vegas and Oakland, but activity out of Van Nuys is five per cent ahead YOY, and there were much bigger gains in charters in the last fortnight from Miami-Opa Locka, West Palm Beach and Nantucket. Branded charter operations from the US to Bahamas are up 11 per cent this month. The most popular aircraft are the King Air 350, Citation XLS and PC-12, and there is notable growth in charter activity on Citation X and Learjet 60s.

There are also some signs this month of flight activity emerging from US states as economic activity emerges from lockdowns. From California, business jet and prop activity is down by only six per cent this month, having stagnated 15 per cent below normal through most of August. Relatively, the last two weeks has seen a strong pick up for New York, now 12 per cent below versus its 30 per cent YOY deficit last month. In contrast, business aviation demand out of neighbouring New Jersey is moribund, still 50 per cent below normal. Texas has shown little improvement so far this month, but Florida has rebounded, with the Labor Day effect generating 17 per cent more activity through the first two weeks of September. Colorado continues to attract more business jet travellers, and arrivals into Arizona are up four per cent this month.

In Europe, the charter market is also relatively robust this month, with Switzerland, Turkey and Russia all seeing significantly increased YOY sectors operated by branded charter operators. Smaller countries like Serbia and Czech Republic have also had a big jump in charters in September. The overall charter market in Europe is flat in terms of sectors, down 2% in terms of flight hours. The offset comes from steep declines in charter demand in the UK, France, Spain and Greece. Charter flights from Nice and Le Bourget are trailing at around 15 per cent YOY. Charter flights within Italy, Germany and Spain are ahead of September 2019. The first fortnight in September saw a 50 per cent YOY jump in charters from Italy to the UK.

Across all mission types, September activity shows a continued preference for small and midsize jets versus larger cabin types, and this is reflected in flight hours, which are twice as depressed as flight sectors. Ultra-long range jet sectors, for example, are down 18 per cent In September, with flight hours down by 32 per cent. Conversely, super light jets are flat in terms of flights, but slightly ahead for hours. The strongest performing segment in Europe is the very light jet segment, with sectors up by nine per cent so far in September, mainly due to charter demand. The older entry level segment is also flying more than last year, with the CJ2 picking up strong charter demand. In the midsize class, the Challenger 300/350 is the busiest, with charter activity within 5% of normal. The older Hawker 800 platform is also doing well in the charter market.

WingX MD Richard Koe comments: “The European market is showing a predictable slowdown as leisure demand winds up, although the light jet charter market has stayed resilient. That may change in the second half of the month as holidays end. The US market is improving on its recent YOY trend, with the boost coming from charter operations. A key question for the industry going in to Q4 is whether the new first-time users of business aviation will stick. The planned cutbacks in regional airline services next month may provide some incentive.”

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