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Renewal of quarantines sees business aviation activity slide
Restrictions are tightening once more, and this muddies the path to business aviation recovery. Yet worldwide, the charter market continues to be the resilient sector, with sectors down by only six per cent YOY.

Global business aviation sectors from the start of October into the first week of November have declined by 14.7 per cent compared to the same period in 2019. This compares to a 54 per cent same-period decline in scheduled aviation activity and a 0.5 per cent pick-up in cargo airline operations. According to WingX's weekly Global Market Tracker, business aviation activity represents just over 20 per cent of total global fixed wing activity in this period, compared to 12 per cent during 2019. Year on year business aviation trends picked up in October compared to September and hit a post-March high point in mid-October, but since then rolling seven-day activity has slid back by 10 per cent, declining each day through 3 November.

North America has seen 78 per cent of global business aviation sectors in the last five weeks, down by 16 per cent for same period, a slight improvement on the 18 per cent decline for September YOY. The weakest markets are Canada, Mexico, Bahamas, Sint Maarten and Bermuda. The United States has seen sectors falling 14 per cent compared to the same five weeks in 2019, although notably sectors between two to three hours have increased YOY. The second half of October was the busiest period for business aviation in the US since February this year, but since then the recovery has lapsed. Business jets operated two-thirds of all sectors, and flew 180,000 sectors, with hours down only 11 per cent compared to the same period in 2019.

Regional flight activity trends across the United States since September maintain a familiar narrative: the south east is showing quite robust trends with jet and prop departures in Florida and South Carolina up this month; the north east is still ailing, although New York's activity is close to 90 per cent of normal, while New Jersey is still over 40 per cent behind; the mid west is also well adrift, with both Illinois and Ohio 20 per cent under, although Michigan is just nine per cent off; south central is mainly aligned to Texas where trends are static at 85 per cent of normal; and the west coast has improved markedly from September to October and is now 11 per cent down YOY. Despite the overall slowdown in the recovery in the second half of October, Florida's seven-day trend has picked up in the last two weeks. Its busiest state connection is with Georgia.

Business aviation trends in Europe have held up over the last five-week period, 12 per cent down on the same period in 2019. However, the resurgence of the virus and the associated lockdown renewals have seen a steady deterioration in the last fortnight, with a 22 per cent drop in rolling average activity since then. The UK continues to be the hardest hit, with outbound flights falling 32 per cent since September. Spain, France, Switzerland and Belgium are all seeing 20 per cent declines in the last few weeks. Other countries are maintaining 90 per cent or more of normal activity, including Germany, Italy and Austria. Flight activity in Sweden is only two per cent off, business aviation flights in Portugal are up 10 per cent and in Greece and Turkey flights are soaring more than 40 per cent above usual levels for this time of year.

The busiest airport hubs in Europe continue to see the largest declines in YOY flight, with Luton's jet and prop departures running 50 per cent below normal, Le Bourget, Geneva and Farnborough around 35 per cent under par and Nice trailing by 17 per cent. Zurich, Ciampino and Munich are aligned with low double-digit market declines, with Schoenefeld seeing a small increase YOY. The last five weeks have seen substantial growth in activity at Vnukovo, Ataturk and Athens airports. Vnukovo connections are well up with Riga and Nice, whereas Ataturk is seeing a big increase in domestic flights with Bodrum, Dalaman and Esenboga, and also with Tirana. Amongst Europe's busiest business jets this month, the Citation Mustang, CJ2 and Hawker 700-900 platforms are seeing solid YOY increases.

Worldwide, the charter market continues to be the resilient sector, with sectors down by only six per cent compared to last year. Fractional operators have also made a big comeback, with October activity trailing by eight per cent. Private flight departments are still operating well below normal, at least 20 per cent under par. The busiest business jet in the charter market is the Citation Excel, with flights down 14 per cent, in contrast to Challenger 300 activity, which is level with YOY charter flights. The Nextant is in relatively high demand, with charter sectors up by 11 per cent. The Embraer Legacy 600 is flying 44 per cent fewer charter sectors worldwide, but in Europe this platform's activity is up seven per cent. In Europe, Citation Mustang charter hours are up nine per cent, and in the US, Mustang hours are up over 40 per cent.

Richard Koe, WingX MD comments: “With the resurgence of the virus in Europe inevitably heading towards the United States, the industry faces a turbulent few months, and that's already reflected in the relapsing recovery in flights coming into November. The business traveller isn't going to come back in large numbers this winter so much depends on the sustainability of leisure demand, in particular for charter flights, with previously occasional customers flying more and reportedly a significant number of first-time entrants coming into the market.”

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