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Business Air News Bulletin
Business Air News Bulletin
The monthly news publication for aviation professionals.
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Business aviation feels the pinch as holiday season closes
Even though private flying has taken a huge hit this year overall, there were some positive signs emerging as travellers looked to make a summer getaway. Much of this activity has tailed off with the arrival of September.

Almost 50,000 fewer business aviation sectors have been operated in September 2020 compared to September 2019, a YOY deficit of 16.5 per cent.

This gap is widening since August as the summer holiday demand dries up, particularly in Europe, according to WingX's weekly Global Market Tracker. The decline in flights mirrors the relapse in scheduled airline activity this month. Across both market sectors, travel demand has clearly softened in the leisure sector and failed to pick up in corporate travel. For the business aviation market, North America has seen the biggest recovery stall, with flights trending down by 20 per cent YOY. In Europe, business jet and prop flights are now trailing September 2019 by eight per cent. Both regions are seeing YOY declines of around 50 per cent in airline traffic.

The US market has seen an 18 per cent decline in the business jet and prop sectors this month through to 22 September. Activity has declined 13 per cent over the last seven days, with trends now back where they were in August. Flight activity in Florida is ahead of September 2019, although that trend is fading since the Labor Day surge at the start of the month. Colorado is slightly up compared to same period last year, with the summer-long growth in activity now dissipating. Arizona is flat and Michigan is close to normal for September. The core US business jet states are still floundering in terms of YOY activity, with flights out of Texas 20 per cent under par and California activity 15 per cent behind. Activity out of New York is trailing by 18 per cent although that represents a big improvement to the deeper stagnation witnessed throughout the summer.

Charter demand continues to offer some buoyancy in the US. Branded charter operators are flying 12 per cent fewer sectors in September YOY, and have just a six per cent deficit in hours. By comparison, aircraft management companies are flying 17 per cent less, fractional operations are down by 15 pe cent and private flight departments are posting 25 per cent fewer sectors. In the charter market, the Citation Excel/XLS is the busiest jet, but the Learjet 60 and Hawker Nextant have strong YOY growth. Heavier jets are struggling to find demand, with the Challenger 600 flying 25 per cent less YOY. The prop charter market is resilient, with the PC-12 sustaining a five per cent increase YOY. Part 135 hours are up for branded charter operators like Jet Edge, XO Jet and Clay Lacy. The busiest airports September so far are Teterboro and Van Nuys, with charters respectively down by 44 per cent and up by seven per cent.

In Europe, flight activity is clearly ebbing in September, with leading market France showing a 15 per cent decline in business jet and prop flights this month-to-date. Flight activity in Germany is down by eight per cent YOY, down 13 per cent in terms of flight hours. The UK and Spain are the worst affected so far this month, with both countries seeing more than 20 per cent declines in flight activity compared to the same September period last year. Russia, Turkey, Austria and Sweden have sustained YOY growth in flights this month. Business jet flights out of Croatia are seven per cent higher this month than in September 2019, and from Portugal they are up three per cent. Business jet charter demand is relatively resilient, with this activity down five per cent YOY across Europe, and still higher in Germany and Switzerland than for the same period in September last year.

Across European airports, business jet and prop activity is trailing most at the key hubs such as Le Bourget, Luton, Nice and Farnborough, all seeing at least 25 per cent YOY deficits. Biggin Hill and Zurich are flat YOY. Vienna is seeing some YOY growth, and there is a month-long surge in activity out of Vnukovo, Olbia, Munich, Ataturk and Athens, all well above 2019's levels of business aviation this month. Connections with conspicuous growth this month include Vnukovo-Riga-Pulkovo, Bodrum-Ataturk-Dalaman, Vnukovo-Nice and Cannes-Le Bourget. The biggest declines are on the perennially busy connections between Geneva, Le Bourget, Nice and Farnborough. Ninety seven percent of all business aviation flights from Europe stayed in Europe, with interregional connections seeing steep declines: transatlantic flights from Europe to North America are trending down by over 60 per cent in September.

Outside Europe and the US, the trend in business aviation activity in September is down by 18 per cent, 24 per cent behind in terms of flight hours operated. Significant declines in Canada, Mexico and New Zealand are offsetting a recovery in flight activity in Australia and growth in flights out of Brazil and China. UAE, Israel and Malaysia are all seeing more flights in September this year than last year, although flight hours are down. Saudi Arabia has seen a 26 per cent decline in flights this month and a 50 per cent fall in flight hours. Business jet flights between Riyadh and Jeddah are down by 36 per cent this month. The busiest business jet outside the US and European regions is the Challenger 600, with its sectors down by 23 per cent. Global 6000/6500 activity is trending down 42 per cent; but CJ2 flights are up 15 per cent this month.

WingX MD Richard Koe states: “The unwinding of the late summer recovery is underway, with the absence of the business traveller unsurprising given that governments and corporations are requesting that employees work from home. Wherever concerns about the virus' second wave are strongest, all travel demand including business aviation is weakest, with the UK and Spain being the most notable examples this month. The bright spot for the business aviation sector is that charter demand is relatively resilient and is clearly representing a larger share of activity than before the pandemic.”

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