Global business aviation activity is down by 15 per cent through most of October 2020 compared to the same period in 2019. According to WingX's weekly Global Market Tracker this is a resilient trend considering the resurgence of virus concerns in key European and US markets, and the associated travel restrictions, which have been reflected in more than 50 per cent drops in scheduled airline operations. Rolling seven-day average business aviation activity hit a post-March high of just over 12,000 daily sectors on 19 October, compared to a low point of just 4,000 in the spring, and a high point of 11,000 this summer. With business travel largely on hold, the leisure demand is showing up in terms of robust charter demand, leisure destination and smaller aircraft.
Three quarters of global business aviation activity this month is in the North American region, with the United States seeing the lion's share, trending 14 per cent below normal. Canada, Mexico and Bahamas are the next busiest, all with more severe declines. The US market is improving slightly at the aggregate level in the last two months, and at 86 per cent of October 2019's volume, the trend is fairly encouraging given this month is typically driven by calendar events that have all been cancelled this year. The charter market is buoyant, with branded charter operations only seven per cent below normal. Fractional operations are now also seeing a stronger recovery, trending likewise at 93 per cent of normal. Private operations, including corporate flight departments, continue to fly much less, with sectors 23 per cent below the same period last year.
Two of the busiest four US states have seen growth in business aviation activity this month, with both Florida and Colorado seeing double-digit growth YOY. Texas is the busiest state, with jet and prop activity trailing 14 per cent YOY. Flight activity out of California, still mainly in lockdown, is down only 11 per cent. The east coast is where we see the biggest dent in normal operations, with flights out of New York down 14 per cent, Pennsylvania 21 per cent under and New Jersey still at the back, with flights down 46 per cent YOY. South Carolina is another outlier, with flights up two per cent, and there is sustained growth to getaway destinations like Utah, Montana, and Idaho. Across the US, the busiest aircraft segments are light and very light jets. Charter activity is trending up on several aircraft platforms including the Citation X, Lear 60, Nextant and Challenger 300/350.
US trends are converging with Europe; as the former improves, the latter is deteriorating, reflecting the spike in virus infections this month. October trends show a decline of 13 per cent in overall regional sectors flown and a 18 per cent drop in terms of flight hours, emphasising the shift towards smaller aircraft flying shorter sectors. Four of the biggest six markets are now seeing fast-deteriorating declines: Switzerland, France, Spain, and particularly the UK, are seeing flights down by a third versus October 2019. Germany and Italy are so far less affected, above 90 per cent of normal, and domestic flights in Germany, Italy and Sweden too are up in October. Flight activity in Turkey and Russia is well up, also mostly domestic.
The charter market is also more buoyant in Europe, with eight per cent declining trends so far in October. Branded charter operations are substantially up in Greece, Cyprus, Ukraine and Poland as well as Russia and Turkey. The busiest charter flows are domestic: UK, France and Spain, all well behind, and Germany, only five per cent below normal. The busiest international charter connection in Europe is UK to France, with flights down by 35 per cent. Next is UK to Germany, with charters up almost 10 per cent this month. Other country flows point to half-term holiday demand: charters are well up between Germany, Italy, UK, Turkey and Greece. Charter pairs from Vnukovo are also well up with Riga, Bodrum, Nice and Larnaca.
Outside Europe and North America, the narrative is little changed, with flights overall declining 18 per cent YOY, and flight hours suffering more, falling 26 per cent on the fall-off in demand for inter-continental sectors. Declines continue to be significant in Canada, Mexico, Saudi Arabia and India, whereas business jet activity is much more robust in Brazil, Israel, Colombia, China and UAE. The busiest airports in these regions are in Mexico, Brazil and Australia, such as Del Norte and Toluca, with flights well down, although Los Cabos is up as are Corgonhas in São Paulo and Adelaide and Townsville in Australia. Top Asia-Pacific airports include Beijing, Seletar and Hong Kong, with flight activity still well down at all three locations. Guangzhou has the biggest growth in business aviation activity this month in Asia.
MD of WingX Richard Koe states: “Business aviation demand is holding up globally, and it is encouraging to see a post-March high in daily operations. Charter and fractional operations are fairly robust, and as we know that business travel is greatly subdued, this suggests there is a strong underlying demand for safe and convenient leisure and lifestyle travel.”