Data suggests that business jet activity in the US is remarkably buoyant, while European operations are starting to pick up.
Business aviation accounts for 19 per cent of all fixed wing activity so far this year compared with 12 per cent for the same period in 2020. The year to date decline of eight per cent compares with the 24 per cent fall in business jet utilisation last year.
Recovery is being spearhead by the US with demand being driven by the 12 states that are unlocking travel restrictions, where departures are up 11 per cent in March year-on-year, which compares with a five per cent drop in January and February and a 25 per cent decline in March to December last year. Midsize jets are flying most with sectors up 30 per cent year-on-year. Half the 15,000 sectors flown out of these states this month have been out of Texas, where demand has rebounded from the big freeze as well as lockdown, driving a 14 per cent year-on-year increase in business jet movements.
Europe is seeing an improvement in March after suffering a 26 per cent drop in business aviation movements in January and February. But the UK continues to struggle with business aviation flights, which are down 50 per cent so far in March.
MD of WingX Advance Richard Koe, comments: “Business aviation in the US is remarkably buoyant, with clear growth on the pre-pandemic period in 2020. Florida, now joined by a host of other unlocked states, is seeing a sharp rebound in travel demand. Activity in Europe is getting closer to normal, with trends also starting to reflect comparison with the slowdown pre-lockdown in March 2020. In Asia, especially China, flight activity is already reflecting the recovery from the lockdown in progress a year ago.”
In the US Iowa, Connecticut, and North Dakota are the only unlocked states still down on pre-pandemic trends. Florida is up 19 per cent in business jet and prop traffic so far this month and up 15 per cent this year versus 2020. Since the pandemic struck 12 months ago, business aviation traffic is down only six per cent. So far in March 2021, very light jet activity in Florida is up 45 per cent year-on-year while ultra-long range jets are flying 23 per cent more sectors than in March 2020.
Flights from Florida to Puerto Rico, Jamaica, Colombia and Costa Rica are up by over 50 per cent. Charter operations in Florida are up 27 per cent this month and 25 per cent so far this year. Its West Palm Beach, Miami-Opa Locka Executive and Naples airports are all seeing record traffic levels while at Teterboro in New Jersey business jet traffic is still trailing by 40 per cent YOY this month.
In Europe, business aviation is seeing markedly stronger trends compared to the scheduled airlines. Non-scheduled jet and prop activity is only 12 per cent down compared to a mammoth 74 per cent shortfall in passenger airline flights. In January and February business aviation movements were down by 26 per cent, so March is showing strong improvement at this point.
Flight activity in Italy is much higher than in early March 2020, which may start to reflect the year-on-year effect as Italy went into lockdown on 9 March 2020 but was already curbing travel before then. There continues to be strong growth in business aviation traffic in Russia, Ukraine, Poland, Greece, Hungary and Serbia but the UK continues to see the worst impact from its ongoing lockdown, with business aviation flights down by over 50 per cent into March 2021. Luton has fallen behind Biggin Hill to be the third busiest airport for business jets this month with 70 per cent fewer flights than last year. Both Farnborough and Biggin Hill are down by almost half compared to March last year.
In the rest of the world business jet activity is 12 per cent below normal. Despite strong business jet connections between the US and Mexico, flights within Mexico are down by 19 per cent. Flights within Brazil have fallen 40 per cent, having been up most of the last six months and reflecting the cancellation of the 2021 Carnival.
Canada is also well below normal and 40 per cent down on March 2020. The UAE and Nigeria continue to see very strong year-on-year growth while China’s traffic is up almost three times compared to March 2020, building on the rebound from the country’s extended lockdown in March last year.