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Business Air News Bulletin
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North American private aviation is back in business
With a large domestic market and lighter travel restrictions than in Europe, the US is seeing solid trends in business aviation traffic, with 445,000 sectors flown this year, only seven per cent fewer YOY.

Global fixed wing activity is down by 43 per cent through the first two months of this year, with scheduled airlines bearing most of the burden, as their activity fell by 52 per cent compared to the start of 2020. According to WingX's weekly Global Market Tracker, business aviation activity has flagged in February, tending towards 85 per cent of normal levels but cargo operations have continued to out-pace pre-pandemic levels by around 10 per cent.

Geographically, North America is seeing a much stronger recovery in both scheduled and non-scheduled activity, with total operations down by 35 per cent. The US is now at 30 per cent decline and within 10 per cent of business aviation activity back in January and February 2020. The European area is suffering the heaviest declines in airline activity, which is down over 70 per cent YOY, while business aviation is relatively more robust but still down by a quarter compared to January and February 2020. Nigeria and China continue to see strong growth in the domestic use of business jets. The busiest connections in China are between Hainan, Beijing and Shenzhen, and in Nigeria between Abuja and Lagos. Brazil has experienced growth this year, both internationally with Angola and domestically with strong growth between Porto Seguro and Congonhas. However the cancellation of this year's carnival in Rio de Janeiro aw a sharp drop in mid-month traffic compared to last year.

With a large domestic market and lighter travel restrictions than in Europe, the US is seeing solid trends in business aviation traffic, with 445,000 sectors flown this year, only seven per cent fewer YOY. The charter market is particularly strong, with only one per cent fewer YOY departures and an increase of four per cent in flight hours. Private flight activity, encompassing owner and corporate flight departments, is still weak, with these flying 13 per cent below normal. Fractional operations seem to have recovered to within five per cent of normal and aircraft management operators are flat YOY. The charter market is even slightly stronger for just the jet fleet, with a one per cent gain in sectors so far this year, mainly in very light jets, which are up by eight per cent overall and up by 13 per cent in charter activity compared to last year.

Geographically, the US hub for business jet movements continues to be Florida, with 16 per cent growth in activity this year and more than 20 per cent growth in charter departures. February has continued to be strong, with 29,000 flights operated, which is 15 per cent more than in February 2020. California is the second busiest US state this year for business jet traffic, with travel restrictions frustrating recovery and flight sectors down 11 per cent. Demand in Texas took a nose-dive during the freeze, with flights trending seven per cent down for the month but bouncing back in the last week. Colorado, the perennial powerhouse of business jet demand during the pandemic, added 14 per cent in flight activity in February. Arizona also continues to attract more business jet demand than ever, experiencing growth of five per cent on last year. New Jersey looks to be the last state to recover, with flights still lagging 40 per cent. In contrast, New York is flat, with strong growth back and forth with Florida.

Europe's long road to recovery in business in business jet usage has been marred by prolonged lockdown, complicating any cross-border travel, and as the economy slides into a double-dip recession the prospects look bleaker for at least the first half of 2021. The last week has seen a 34 per cent dip in YOY business jet activity, with government activity one of the few resilient sectors. Regionally, the UK is stagnating at almost two thirds lower than last year. The core Eurozone countries have all seen business jet movements drop at least a third in the second half of February compared to same period last year. As before, demand continues to be stronger than ever for flights in Russia and Turkey, mainly as result of domestic activity. There is a clear contrast between Western and Eastern Europe, with the latter seeing growth in business jet activity in Ukraine, Romania, Latvia, Croatia and Albania.

WingX MD Richard Koe comments: “The US is starting to see an accelerated recovery from the winter pandemic, with both scheduled and business aviation activity opening up and charter activity setting some new records, especially in Florida. It is a different story in Europe, however, with a long road to run, and international leisure trips all but illegal. This slowdown is very clear in Western Europe, contrasting with openness to the East, where business jets are being used more than ever within Russia and Turkey.”

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