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Florida sets the flying standard while Europe is way down
In the US, business aviation activity in Florida is driving the market forward, with 10 per cent more activity than last February. The UK is down by 60 per cent versus last February, the lowest ebb since the pandemic's height.

Global business aviation traffic is down by 11 per cent for the first half of February, with 14,000 flights fewer than February last year. Demand for corporate aviation has been steady over the last month, whilst scheduled airline activity in February so far continues to deteriorate, at 53 per cent lower YOY.

According to WingX's weekly Global Market Tracker, cargo activity continues to increase YOY. European activity is weakest, with commercial airline activity down by 68 per cent in February and business aviation flights sliding by 22 per cent. Business aviation trends continue to diverge widely from region to region, with North America 10 per cent below YOY, Asia just one per cent under, flights in Africa down by eight per cent and activity up in South America and Oceania.

In North America, seven-day trending activity was back up to 8,600 sectors daily in the run up to Valentine's Day, the highest since the New Year, and higher than at any period from April through August last year. Private flight activity is down by the most in February, at 15 per cent below normal. Aircraft management fleets are flying four per cent below normal while branded charter activity is the most robust, at just one per cent off last year's trends. The busiest flying was in the Caribbean, with double-digit growth in flight activity in the US Virgin Islands, Antigua Barbuda and Guadeloupe. In contrast, other regional spots were much quieter, with much less activity at Sint Maarten and Saint Barthelemy. Compared to the US, where activity is just eight per cent down, flight activity in Canada was more than 40 per cent below.

Within the US, business aviation activity in Florida is driving the market forward, with 10 per cent more activity than last February. Other US states with lots of growth in business aviation in February include Colorado, Arizona and South Carolina. In contrast, business jet activity out of California and Texas is down double-digits. Flights out of New York are down only five per cent but New Jersey has relapsed, with business aviation movements down 41 per cent in February. The busiest inter-state connection is Florida and Georgia, which has seen an 18 per cent increase in YOY flying. The pattern of busiest airports has not changed much in the last 12 months, with West Palm Beach, Miami-Opa Locka and Naples breaking activity records, and Scottsdale and Centennial all doing better than pre-pandemic levels, whereas Teterboro, McCarran and Hobby Houston are well below normal.

In Europe, overlapping and unpredictable border restrictions are constraining recovery in flying. The UK is most affected, with 60 per cent reductions in February activity, the lowest ebb since the height of the pandemic last year. Luton, Farnborough and Biggin Hill are the busiest three airports but all with activity down two thirds. Bournemouth is the only leading business aviation airport to have growth this month. The UK charter market is 62 per cent less active than February 2020, with only 247 flights from the UK to the rest of Europe, although there are YOY increases in outbound flights this month to Lithuania, Latvia and Hungary. Declines have also been heavy in France and Germany, while Switzerland's inbound business jet flights are down more than half. Notably, domestic business jet traffic in France and Italy is at normal levels.

Outside Europe, there is strong growth in business jet activity in Russia and Turkey, the majority of it domestic, maintaining trends this year. In the wider European market, there is growth in Hawker 700-950 jet activity and for King Air 200. Falcon 2000 and Global 6500 activity meanwhile is down well over 40 per cent. Outside Europe and the US, the busiest business jet worldwide is the Challenger 600 platform, with flights only one per cent behind last February. The Legacy 600 is flying 14 per cent more than usual and the Learjet 45 is another aircraft type with increased usage. There is more business jet activity than last year in China, Brazil and Nigeria. There are still sizeable lags in business jet activity in Saudi Arabia, whereas flights in the UAE are up this month, mainly with Russia and Turkey, but also with Germany and Maldives.

WingX MD Richard Koe comments: “The US market continues to look pretty solid for business aviation demand in 2021, with Florida the hub and California and Texas still lagging. The Caribbean is also seeing some strong leisure traffic. Although Western Europe continues to relapse, big domestic markets in Russia, Turkey, Nigeria and Brazil all clearly have strong demand for business aviation aircraft.”

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