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Charter flying in the US is back with a bang
Connections between New York and Florida are up 73 per cent this year. Across the US, midsize jet activity is up 35 per cent. Western Europe is still well behind pre-pandemic levels; UK activity is 42 per cent down.

Global fixed wing flight activity is more than three times what it was last April, three weeks into the month. Year to date, scheduled airline sectors are still trailing by 29 per cent in 2021 versus 2020, but business aviation aircraft are already 18 per cent busier. WingX data shows that cargo operations continue to outperform, with global flight hours up more than 10 per cent on 2020. Cargo activity is also up on 2019 trends, whereas business aviation trends are still down by eight per cent compared to April 2019 and 10 per cent off year-to-date 2019. The regional business aviation markets outside the US and Europe are closest to pre-pandemic trends, at just four per cent behind year-to-date 2019. The US market is five per cent behind 2019 so far this year, whereas Europe is still 21 per cent below 2019 levels.

As vaccination programmes move swiftly ahead, and increasing numbers of US states lift restrictions, the US is fast closing the shortfall on pre-pandemic flight activity. Trending daily activity has slightly fallen off the highs in late March, with the latest reference at 8,301 flights, which compares to the 2020 low point of 2,399 daily flights and the peak activity in April 2019 of 9,691 daily flights. Fractional, branded charter and aircraft management companies are all flying at least 30 per cent more this year so far compared to last year but private and corporate flight departments are making up lost ground more slowly. More than 15 per cent of all US flight operations are out of Florida this year, with business jet and prop sectors up by 46 per cent in 2021 compared to 2020 and up 18 per cent on 2019.

Texas is now also seeing a big rebound, with flight activity up by 29 per cent through April 2021 versus 2020, but still 10 per cent behind 2019. Dallas Love Field, San Antonio and Austin airports are up 40 per cent in business aviation operations this year compared to last year. Their busiest pairs are to and from the coastline in California and the Gulf of Mexico. Business jet demand from California is 12 per cent up this year, well behind pre-pandemic levels. Flight activity out of New Jersey is still trailing 2020, whereas New York is up 31 per cent in 2021. Business aviation connections between New York and Florida are up 73 per cent this year. Across the country, the largest cabin aircraft are still relatively idle, with ultra-long-range jets still flying five per cent less than last year. Midsize jet activity is up 35 per cent year-to-date.

Europe is starting to see the effect of stop-start vaccination programmes and hesitant reopening. Daily business aviation flight activity has picked up 30 per cent compared to the trough during the winter wave, but Western Europe is still well behind pre-pandemic levels, with the UK's activity still 42 per cent down on the first three and a half months of 2020, 54 per cent on equivalent 2019. Switzerland's business jet connections are also well down, with operators feeling the effects of a cancelled ski season. Flight activity in Germany is two per cent up year-to-date versus 2020, whereas Italy is 27 per cent up, reflecting their relative declines in the early stages of the pandemic last year; both countries are trailing 25 per cent behind comparable activity in 2019.

In the wider European area, other countries are seeing substantially more business aviation activity this year than last. Flights out of Poland are up 17 per cent, from Russia there is growth of 35 per cent, while flights from Turkey are up by two thirds. Whilst Paris Le Bourget airport has seen 4,400 flights this year, 10 per cent behind 2020, Moscow Vnukovo is close behind with 3,800 take-offs, up 34 per cent on 2020. Istanbul Ataturk is the seventh busiest airport in Europe this year, with activity up 65 per cent. while flights from Malta are up more than 70 per cent this month. Further afield, business jet flights from Morocco are still down one per cent this year, 18 per cent off for flight hours. Brazil is well ahead, with 42 per cent more business jet sectors versus 2020. Activity out of the UAE has doubled this year. Business jet connections to and from the Maldives are up 360 per cent in 2021 compared to 2020.

WingX MD Richard Koe comments: “In contrast to scheduled airlines, business aviation activity is now moving well ahead of 2020 and closing within 10 per cent of pre-pandemic levels. Demand for business jet charter, at least in the predominant US market, is already ahead of 2019 and is on target for a record-breaking year, especially if lockdown lifting releases pent-up demand for corporate travel.”

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