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Florida is standout performer as charter looks to gain ground
During the summer, notably in July in the United States and over August in Europe, charter activity was up year on year. Florida and Colorado are September highlights, with six and nine per cent YOY increases in flights.

Global business aviation rolling average activity is trending around 11,500 sectors a day, just about where it was at the start of September. Compared to same period in 2019, jet and prop activity is down by 19 per cent, representing a deficit of 157,000 flight hours.

The six-week period has seen a good deal of variation, says WingX's weekly Global Market Tracker, with the North American market dipping from the middle of September but recovering at the end of the month and holding firm since then. In contrast, flight demand in Europe has gradually subsided. Over the longer term, since March 2020, business aviation activity has subsided by 32 per cent, about half the decline experienced in the commercial airline market.

Since March, and especially since the summer, the charter business has been the most buoyant sector across business aviation activity. Over the last seven months, charter flights are down by 27 per cent compared to private operations, which are almost 40 per cent adrift. During the summer, notably in July in the United States and over August in Europe, charter activity was up year on year. Since the start of September, the end of the summer holiday has slowed demand, with branded charter operations down 12 per cent in the intervening six weeks, but this is still significantly more resilient than owner flights, which are still down by over a quarter. Also, it appears that the active inventory of aircraft in the branded charter fleet is resilient, at just four per cent down despite there being 17 per cent fewer charter operators year on year.

Charter demand is clearly resilient in the United States, with branded charter hours trailing by only four per cent since the start of September. The busiest aircraft in the charter market are the King Air 350, Citation Excel and PC-12, with the latter seeing a 17 per cent increase in YOY flight hours. The Nextant and Learjet 60 platforms also have had double-digit growth in charter hours, and older Citations, like the CJ3, X and Ultra, have all had some growth. Of the larger jets, the Challenger 300 is busiest and only one per cent off in sectors, but heavy jets like the Challenger 600 are 22 per cent below and Global Express charters are down by over 30 per cent. Across the market, aircraft management and fractional companies are flying 10-15 per cent less during the period, and private operations are 23 per cent down compared to the same period in 2019.

Geographically, California and Texas are the busiest US states, each with 32,000 sectors since start of September, and trending down by 13 per cent and 17 per cent respectively in the last six weeks. Florida and Colorado continue to be the highlights, with six per cent and nine per cent YOY increases in flights. Charter and fractional operations are up more than 15 per cent YOY in September and October, with the busiest hubs at Palm Beach, Miami-Opa Locka and Fort Lauderdale all experiencing activity well up YOY. Flights within Florida are up seven per cent, while the busiest inter-state connections with Georgia, Texas and North Carolina are all well up YOY. For Colorado, flights within the last six weeks are down, but Texas, California, Wyoming and Arizona. Coming into Colorado, the busiest segments are super mid, mid and super light, but even ultra long range arrivals are up 25 per cent.

In Europe, the seven-day trend has tailed off in the last six weeks, averaging 2,339 sectors a day at the start of September, but down to 1,738 in the last week. Charter operations are relatively resilient at seven per cent down for the last six weeks, but average daily charter sectors have fallen off 30 per cent in that period. Flight activity trends are closely correlating with second-wave virus contagion and intervention, with the business aviation sectors out of UK and Spain down by a third and France trailing by 20 per cent. Over the last six weeks, business aviation demand in Italy is modestly up, especially on UK-Italy legs, but the real growth outliers are Russia and Turkey with very strong increases in domestic activity. Flights within Germany are up three per cent compared to the same period last year, but international flights from Germany are down double digits.

At an airport level, the growth outliers are at Vnukovo, Ankara and Athens, with very large increases in outbound business jet activity from all three airports. Both leading airports Le Bourget and Nice are seeing big declines, and London airports are obviously affected by the renewed public health restrictions, with Farnborough activity down 32 per cent and Luton down 38 per cent, although Biggin Hill activity is holding firm at just two per cent below normal. International flights are worst hit, especially those with destinations outside Europe; transatlantic flights are down three quarters. Outside Europe and the US, flight activity is down almost 20 per cent, with very subdued markets in Mexico, Canada and Saudi Arabia offsetting robust activity in China, Nigeria and Brazil.

WingX MD Richard Koe says: β€œIn Europe it's clear that the winter wave of the pandemic is repressing any sort of recovery in the corporate travel market and subduing a previously robust consumer travel demand. The US market varies depending on region, with Florida's opening-up seeing very strong activity, and charter demand quite buoyant countrywide. In Asia the recovery appears to have hit a ceiling 10 per cent under, although domestic flying is stronger and China's traffic is back up.”

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