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Business aviation traffic receives a Thanksgiving lift
The four-day Thanksgiving period from Thursday through to Sunday saw 33,227 business aviation departures in the US, a decline of just under 10 per cent compared to the same celebratory period in 2019.

Almost 60,000 fewer business aviation sectors were flown globally in November 2020 compared to November 2019, a YOY decline of 17 per cent, only modestly worse than the October YOY trend. So says WingX's weekly Global Market Tracker.

Scheduled airline traffic has subsided 50 per cent in the same comparative period, with scheduled cargo operations picking up five per cent last month. For business jet and turboprop activity, it's been a variable month, with a big dip in the first two weeks and then a Thanksgiving-powered recovery in the second half. The improved North American trend is now diverging from a weaker European market. Business aviation flight activity across Asia is within five per cent of normal, above normal in Oceania, robust overall in South America and showing an improving nine per cent deficit for flight activity in Africa.

The four-day Thanksgiving period from Thursday through to Sunday saw 33,227 business aviation departures in the US, a decline of just under 10 per cent compared to the same Thanksgiving period in 2019. That compares to a 16 per cent YOY decline during the rest of the month. Thanksgiving in Canada took activity within six per cent of normal, much stronger than the 20 per cent shortfall in the previous month. In the US, Arizona and Colorado stood out with almost 10 per cent growth in arrivals during Thanksgiving. Oregon, Indiana, Wyoming and Utah all saw substantial YOY growth. Flight departures out of the Dakotas were up well over 30 per cent. Notably, business aviation activity out of Florida was down by nine per cent during Thanksgiving, although Florida activity was up by three per cent for the full month.

Branded charter operators flew 15 per cent of sectors flown during Thanksgiving, with activity down 12 per cent YOY. Half of all flights operated were private, and these saw a very large improvement, with activity down just five per cent, which compares to a 23 per cent decline for the full month. The busiest international connection was with Mexico; this flow was down only seven per cent YOY. Flights to Canada were down by 50 per cent, but Thanksgiving connections were up three per cent with Sint Martin, up 12 per cent to St Vincent and up by almost 90 per cent to Costa Rica. Domestic US activity analysis highlights West Palm Beach as by far the busiest Thanksgiving airport, with flights up by three times YOY. Chicago, Centennial and Salt Lake International all saw more than 10 per cent YOY growth. Arrivals into Honolulu more than doubled this Thanksgiving period compared to 2019.

Back in Europe, activity trends are flagging, with rolling seven-day trends starting the month at just under 1,500 sectors a day and ending the month 17 per cent lower. The biggest markets are suffering most, with the UK the backmarker, its flights down by half this November versus last year. Business aviation activity in Germany, which grew YOY in August, is now over 30 per cent behind. Italy is as badly affected by its second lockdown, with flights down by 36 per cent. France is relatively less affected, with flights down by 21 per cent, and flights from Switzerland, Norway and Sweden are within 10 per cent of normal. The outliers continue to be Russia, Turkey and Greece, where activity is well up on November 2019. At the airport level, Vnukovo is narrowly the second busiest airport in Europe, with departures up by 11 per cent. Flights out of Paris Le Bourget are down by 51 per cent.

Charter activity is best weathering the latest setback in Europe, retreating to 82 per cent of usual activity for this time of year, although there are some bright spots for business jet platforms including the Citation Mustang, Legacy 600, Hawker/Nextant and CJ1 aircraft. There are particularly strong charter trends in November from Moscow to Dubai, Riga, Nice, and charter flights between Nice and Geneva were also up. Regular shuttles have cropped up between Le Bourget and Clermont-Ferrand, Bournemouth and Guernsey, Malaga and Tangiers. Notably, shorter sector charter flights are not showing much recovery, with the November demand instead coming from longer sectors, with three to four hours sectors up by 12 per cent, and four to five hours sectors up by 31 per cent.

Outside Europe and the US, November saw a decline of 18 per cent in charter sectors, but notably only nine per cent in flight hours. There was also an emphasis towards longer flights, notably from the Middle East, especially UAE and Israel. The majority of business aviation activity in the rest of the world was private, with some significant growth YOY in China, Nigeria, India and Colombia. Business jet traffic was notably elevated at Los Cabos, São Paulo Congonhas, Dubai Al Maktoum, Istanbul Ataturk, Lagos and Shenzhen. Busiest business jets in November across these regions included the Challenger 600, Global 6000 and Hawker 700-900, although the biggest YOY growth came from Legacy 600/650 and CJ2.

WingX MD Richard Koe comments: “Just as the US airlines saw busiest traffic since March during Thanksgiving, business aviation activity also climbed close to its pandemic peak last weekend, lifting the overall trend for November. The resulting impact of crowded airports on virus infections may influence ongoing travel behaviour, with renewed spikes persuading more newcomers to fly private as a health precaution. In Europe, the dynamic variations in lockdown 2.0 are clearly suppressing flight activity, especially in Western Europe. In Eastern Europe, Russia and Turkey, lighter restrictions and larger domestic geography have encourage a much stronger recovery.”

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