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Global business jet activity begins to rebound
Flight activity month in the US is up 17 per cent compared to last year with fractional operations, up 21 per cent; private owners and corporate flight department traffic up 15 per cent; and charters up 14 per cent.

The business jet rebound from lockdown lows is showing itself to be well-established as the market enjoys strong growth. Business jet activity in the first three weeks of March is 11 per cent up on the same period last year, while activity is within 10 per cent of the first three weeks in March 2019.

Only Europe still lags March 2020 when the imposition of lockdowns and travel restrictions sent business jet activity levels down 50 per cent. By contrast global scheduled airline activity is 30 per cent down and 40 per cent lower than in 2019 with Europe suffering a 75 per cent drop on 2019 levels.

North America is driving the global business jet recovery with rolling seven-day average activity back at pre-pandemic pace last week; the 6,437 sectors flown on March 17th compare to 6,326 on the comparable day in March 2020 and 6,815 in March 2019.

Flight activity month to date in the US is up 17 per cent compared to last year with fractional operations, up 21 per cent; private owners and corporate flight department traffic up 15 per cent; and charters up 14 per cent. Branded charter operations in the US are up 16 per cent, suggesting that we are now seeing record levels of activity.

Richard Koe, MD of WingX Advance, comments: “Beyond the lockdown anniversary in Europe and North America, we can now see the rebound from the low points and the recovery towards normal activity levels. For Europe, the rebound is in its early stages, particularly in Western Europe. Outside Europe, normal flight activity has resumed. In the US, there are signs that business jet activity in 2021 may exceed 2019 activity in some states, particularly for the charter market.”

Compared to March 2020, this month's biggest rebounds in the US are in the super-mid and midsize jets categories, flying 20 per cent more, and very light jets, where sectors are up by 31 per cent year on year.

As it has been throughout the pandemic, Florida is the hub for US flight activity, in contrast to its ranking below California and Texas pre-pandemic. Business jet and prop activity originating in Florida is trending 19 per cent above the March 2020 peak, which was itself higher than any day in March 2019.

Charter demand has been the main driver, with this month's trend peaking at 360 daily sectors, compared to a 304 peak in March 2020 and a high point of 246 daily sectors in March 2019. Miami-Opa has maintained its strong growth this month, with departures up 50 per cent year on year. Smaller Florida airports like Panama City Beach are seeing activity well up.

For the month so far, business jet activity in Europe is close to comparable to March 2020, but peak activity this month, 320 daily sectors, compares to a peak of 406 just before lockdown last March, and an average in March 2019 of 355 flights a day.

There is some regional rebound this month, with flight activity in Italy up 150 per cent, reflecting its early lockdown last March. The UK, which had a relatively late lockdown, and for which restrictions are now much stricter, is seeing more than 50 per cent reduction in business aviation activity this month. Indeed, trending daily activity in the UK is half what it was in July last year.

Austria is slightly up while Ukraine, Greece and Poland, are all seeing growth of more than 20 per cent compared to March 2020. Smaller markets such as Malta, Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary and Latvia are also seeing strong year on year recoveries.

Business aviation out of Germany is down only two per cent, with no other country seeing the same declines as the UK, although Switzerland and Netherlands are both trailing by 20 per cent. At the airport level, whilst Rome Ciampino and Milan Malpensa have more than doubled moribund traffic in March 2020, the UK's airports are operating at under half normal activity. Geneva, deprived of a ski season, is also well down on usual while Majorca is up eight per cent and Madrid Barajas departures are up 25 per cent year on year.

Across the rest of the world the strongest markets are Russia and Turkey, which have been resilient throughout the pandemic. Business jet travel in these two countries is up 30 per cent this month. Trending daily activity is also up 19 per cent on March 2019.

Moscow Vnukovo has outranked Paris Le Bourget in March activity, with 12 per cent growth compared to March last year. Vnukovo's activity is similar to Toluca in Mexico, which is trending down 36 per cent this month. Nassau's activity in the Bahamas is also comparable and trending up eight per cent in March. Other leading airports for business jet departures include Al Maktoum in Dubai, where activity is more than double where it was in March 2020 and in March 2019.

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