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Promising signs in Europe as global market begins bounceback
Europe's gradual easing of mobility restrictions is showing up in a large bounce in April activity, with flights up by 189 per cent in the first two weeks of April 2021 versus April 2020. The US market continues to thrive.

Global business aviation activity this April is up 221 per cent versus April 2020 and down five per cent on April 2019. Since the start of the year, business jet and prop activity is now 10 per cent up on same period for 2020 and nine per cent behind the same period in 2019, according to the latest WingX data.

Scheduled airline activity is down by 33 per cent compared to last year, while cargo operations are 11 per cent up on last year. The airline trends diverge, with Europe 62 per cent down year to date, North America 32 per cent below and Asia two per cent up. For business aviation, the US has seen a 13 per cent increase in flights this year to date, in contrast to Europe, which is still five per cent down, while other regions combined are now 10 per cent up. Compared to the same period in 2019, these trends are respectively -9 per cent, -22 per cent and -4 per cent.

Europe's gradual easing of mobility restrictions is showing up in a large bounce in April activity, with flights up by 189 per cent in the first two weeks of April 2021 versus April 2020. For the year so far, sectors flown in the European region, including Turkey and Russia, are down two per cent, while hours are down by five per cent. Non-commercial business aviation traffic has recovered most, with private flights now up 12 per cent this year versus last year. Branded charter activity has fallen back severely in 2021, and is still down two per cent on year to date 2020. France is the largest market for business aviation activity this year, with 21,800 sectors flown, up by two per cent compared to 2020. Flight activity in Germany is still slightly lagging behind 2020 trends, Switzerland is further behind with 16 per cent fewer flights and the UK continues to be the backmarker with 44 per cent fewer flights this year versus 2020.

Other countries in Europe are seeing a stronger recovery this year. Business jet and prop activity is up 13 per cent in Spain, 22 per cent in Italy and 29 per cent in Russia compared to January to April 2020. Flights from Poland are up 12 per cent, from Greece up 40 per cent and from Turkey up 63 per cent. Business jet activity out of Turkey is trending 10 per cent higher than the same period in 2019. This year, Turkey's domestic activity is up 57 per cent, and international connections have more than doubled with Russia, Albania, Iraq, UAE and Israel, although in contrast, flights from Turkey to Germany are still down almost 20 per cent. The UK's business aviation demand is at the other end of the spectrum so far this year, with 53 per cent fewer flights to France and 70 per cent fewer flights to the US. AOC flights from the UK are up 175 per cent this month, but down 43 per cent this year compared to last year.

The US market continues to thrive, with April seeing two and a half times the activity of the first fortnight of locked-down April 2020. Fractional activity has been particularly strong on the rebound, with more than five times last April's activity. Year to date, most US states have seen more traffic than comparable 2020, with New Jersey the exception, where business aviation departures still off by nine per cent. Florida has more than 50 per cent of the traffic of Texas, the next busiest state, with flights departing airports in Florida up by 40 per cent compared to 2020. A recent peak of 1,388 flights per day this month compares to the high points of 1,185 in 2020 and 1,257 back in 2019. Charter activity in Florida is fully 20 per cent higher than the peaks in Spring 2019. For charter activity, the state's top airports of West Palm Beach, Miami-Opa Locka and Naples are up more than 50 per cent this year compared to same period last year.

Only Nevada has seen less business aviation charter this year compared to 2020. Charters out of California are up 16 per cent and from New York state up 40 per cent. Country-wide, the charter rebound of 25 per cent in 2021 is well above the recovery in non-commercial flights, although these are also up 13 per cent compared to 2020. Teterboro and Las Vegas McCarran are two of the only major business aviation airports still trailing 2020 trends this year. Larger business jet cabins are seeing the slowest recovery, with ultra-long range jet sectors up three per cent and heavy jets flying six per cent more in contrast to light through to midsize cabins, which are flying at least 25 per cent more this year. The Challenger 300/350 is the busiest jet platform, with hours up 21 per cent. The Phenom 300 has seen a substantial rebound, with flight hours up 40 per cent so far this year compared to 2020.

Outside Europe and the US, business jet and prop activity is now ahead of 2020 trends. Including turboprops, Canada is the busiest country, but still lagging 2020 trends through mid-April in contrast to Australia where prop activity is some 30 per cent ahead of last year. For business jet traffic, Mexico is the leading market, up seven per cent on 2020 through mid April. Business jet departures in Brazil are now 36 per cent up this year compared to 2020, Bahamas activity is up 50 per cent and UAE movements are up 95 per cent. Nigeria is the busiest country in Africa, seeing business jet flights double year on year, although Morocco, the next busiest, is still behind 2020 trends. Leisure destinations such as Turks and Caicos are popular this year, with arrivals up 59 per cent.

WingX MD Richard Koe comments: “Unsurprisingly, the first half of April 2021 is several multiples busier than locked-down April 2020. The longer-term view shows that in Europe, gradual easing of travel restrictions are slowly restoring flight demand, whereas the rapid opening up in various US states has already seen pent-up activity surpass the total for 2020, with all-time record demand coming through in Florida and Texas, particularly in charters.”

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