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MEBAA (Middle East & North Africa Business Aviation Association)
MEBAA (Middle East & North Africa Business Aviation Association)
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Operators are well-positioned to pick up the slack
Divergent and rapidly changing rules on international travel quarantines have constrained airline connections in Europe as well as complicating business aviation activity, though plenty of ad hoc requests are coming in.

Global business aviation activity through four weeks of September is down by 18 per cent versus September 2019, the equivalent of 84,000 fewer sectors, according to WingX.

This represents a stalling on the already-slowing global recovery last month. Business aviation flight demand is still relatively resilient compared to scheduled airline activity, where activity is sliding below 50 per cent of 2019 levels. For the airlines, European travel is worst affected, but for business aviation, North America is trailing by most, with flights 20 per cent below par this month. European business aviation activity is at 89 per cent of normal activity this month, while in Asia, business aviation activity is just five per cent down. 92 per cent of the global business aviation fleet engaged in September 2019 has been active this month.

The divergent and rapidly changing rules on international travel quarantines that have constrained airline connections in Europe have also complicated business aviation activity, and the top nine country flows were all domestic. Jet and turboprop flights within Turkey and Russia are in fact well up on YOY trends, and domestic flights within Italy and Sweden are also modestly up this month. The busiest international business aviation flow in September is the UK to Italy, with 670 flights this month, an increase of almost 30% YOY. The busiest airport destinations on this country connection are Olbia, Milan and Genoa, with Farnborough and Biggin Hill the busiest origin airports. The top aircraft types flying from the UK to Italy are light jets, notably the Phenom 300, with flights up by 70 per cent and the CJ2, with flights up 50 per cent versus the same period in September 2019.

Taking a step back, the slowdown at the European level is most severe and deteriorating in the UK and Spain, respectively 26 per cent and 32 per cent behind usual activity for September. Activity growth in August in Switzerland and Germany has relapsed this month. Turkey and Russia are growth outliers, with business jet activity well up YOY, and Austria has seen increased activity all summer. Turboprop activity is up in Europe, mainly through PC-12 flights, growing 12 per cent year on year in September. Business jet activity is weaker, with an overall decline of 14 per cent in sectors this month and a 20 per cent decline in operating hours. Gulfstream and Dassault flight hours are down 40 per cent in Europe this month. Branded charter operators are providing most buoyancy, with flights down only seven per cent for September across Europe. The busiest city pair for business jet charters is Nice-Moscow.

In North America, the recovery in business aviation activity is slowing, with sectors down by 21 per cent compared to September 2019. Mexico continues to be the tailender, with flights down by 55 per cent. The Bahamas has seen a similar stagnation since May. In Canada, flight activity is treading water at 25 per cent below, and in the US, trends are ebbing below 80 per cent of normal. There have been modest YOY increases in activity to and from Caribbean destinations like St Barts and Turks and Caicos. By US state, there is some buoyancy in Florida and Colorado, with flights growing from both this month. The busiest two US states are Texas and California, with activity still at around 20 per cent below, a similar level to New York, which is at least recovering. The strongest inter-state activity is between Texas and Colorado and Florida and Georgia.

Branded charter operations continue to show the most resilience in the US, with trend in sectors down only 12 per cent this month, compared to a 26 per cent drop in private and corporate flight departments. Whilst branded charter ops out of Teterboro are still 60 per cent below, the next busiest airport at Love Field in Dallas, Texas is seeing only a three per cent decline this month. Aspen, Colorado continues to see the strongest YOY growth in charters, with arrivals and departures up by a third. Miami-Opa Locka has seen more than 20 per cent growth in charter departures this month, while West Palm Beach also saw double-digit growth in September, as did Scottsdale. These trends contrast with steep declines in charter demand from McCarran Las Vegas, as well as east coast hubs at Dulles and White Plains. The strongest US growth pairs for charter demand this month are from Westchester to Nantucket and Van Nuys to Aspen.

WingX MD Richard Koe says: β€œIn Europe, diverse national travel restrictions have complicated all travel plans and taken the wind out of the business aviation flight recovery. The US is behind the curve in opening-up the economy, with Florida the exception. But despite the overall slowdown, there are examples of growth, with common themes around domestic itineraries, getaway locations and smaller aircraft, and the charter operators appear to be best positioned to meet the associated demand.”

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