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MEBAA (Middle East & North Africa Business Aviation Association)
MEBAA (Middle East & North Africa Business Aviation Association)
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‘Remarkable gap’ between scheduled and non-scheduled
Fractional and aircraft management operators in the US are flying within 10 per cent of normal. Charter activity in Europe is much less healthy, trending down over 20 per cent in February. Airlines are faring even less well.

Global fixed wing activity is trending down by 43 per cent so far in 2021, with scheduled airline operations down by 50 per cent, cargo operations up by 10 per cent and business aviation traffic down 11 per cent, according to WingX's weekly Global Market Tracker. In February, the airline trends have deteriorated further, despite now being past the anniversary of the initial impact of the pandemic in 2020. Business aviation demand, which was barely affected on a global level in February 2020, is also a little weaker this month, with 12 per cent fewer sectors flown YOY, a deficit of 21,000 flights. Global trends are very divergent, with demand in Europe still reeling from renewed border restrictions and flights down by 25 per cent YOY, North America relatively resilient at 11 per cent below normal, Asia up in sectors but down in hours, flying in South America now above 2020 levels and Africa within 10 per cent.

Business jet activity in the US is continuing to weather the winter virus wave and associated restrictions, with 118,000 sectors flown so far in February, representing 93 per cent of the activity in same period in 2020.

Florida is the hub, with flights up by 11 per cent compared to last year. Business jet flights within Florida are up 18 per cent on last year at their highest ever levels. Other connections with double-digit increases in flight activity are those linking Florida and New York, Georgia, Texas and Colorado. Business jet departures out of Utah are up by over 30 per cent this February. The twin dead-weights are Texas and California. In Texas, flight demand withered in the face of the polar freeze; in the second week of February, business aviation activity from and within Texas was down by 52 per cent YOY. San Antonio and Fort Worth airports saw declines of 60 per cent in departures during the freeze.

Across the US, the resilience in demand is clearly slanted towards charter, with branded charter operators flying slightly more hours this February than last and sectors down just three per cent. Fractional and aircraft management operators are flying within 10 per cent of normal, while private operations, across owner and corporate flight departments, are flying 15 per cent less. The hotspots for charter are in Florida, with West Palm Beach airport seeing 40 per cent more charter demand this month than in February 2020. The core demand appears to be for leisure, as reflected in the 20 per cent increase in YOY charter hours during the President's Day weekend. Then again there appears to be a strong commuter belt emerging on the North East, with flights from Florida to New York up by 58 per cent during the month of February.

Charter activity in Europe is much less healthy, trending down more than 20 per cent in February and at similar levels to where we were back in June 2020. The UK, usually the largest charter market in the region, is ranked behind Germany and is seeing only half of YOY activity. In contrast, the charter market is busier than ever in Turkey, Russia, and across Eastern Europe from Ukraine to Latvia, Hungary and Poland, as well as Greece, Croatia and Cyprus. The increasing complexity of running G-registered fleets may be reflected in the flight activity out of Malta, which has more than doubled YOY. In terms of flight hours, both Hawker 700-950 and Challenger 850 types are flying more YOY. Across all operators, trends are weakest in fractional and aircraft management companies. Luton is now the 13th busiest airport in Europe, with flights down by 68%, whereas Vnukovo is ranked second by activity this month, with flights up by five per cent YOY.

Outside Europe and the US, the trend in business aviation activity has been resilient since July last year; activity is down 22 per cent for the full period since January 2020 but has been within 10 per cent of pre-pandemic levels since November last year. This year, rest of world sectors are down by eight per cent and hours flown by 14 per cent. Including turboprops, Canada and Australia are the busiest countries, respectively growing and declining YOY. For the business jet fleet, Brazil and Bahamas are the next busiest countries this month, with jet activity within Brazil up by 14 per cent YOY. Flights from Mexico to the US are up 20 per cent this month.

Domestic business jet activity is also up in China, Nigeria, Colombia, India and Saudi Arabia. Business jet flights out of UAE are up 38 per cent this month, with Al Maktoum airport seeing double the activity versus February 2020.

WingX MD Richard Koe comments: “The gap between trends in scheduled and non-scheduled aviation continues to be remarkable, with the biggest divergence in the United States. Surges in leisure demand during public holidays and what appears to be recovery in corporate demand on the east coast is keeping the US market within 10% of normal, despite the Texas freeze and California lockdown. Europe is miles behind, at least in the Western Europe; to the east, private jets are busier than ever in a number of countries.”

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