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Middle East is the standout performer in charter rebound
The UAE has been consistently growing activity in 2021, with May's activity up 80 per cent on May 2019. The busiest connections from UAE have been India, Russia, Saudi and Bahrain. The US is returning strong numbers.

May was a strong recovery month for global aviation activity, with total fixed wing activity up by 166 per cent year on year, but still down by 37 per cent compared to May 2019.

Global scheduled airline operations last month lagged May 2019 by 43 per cent. Worldwide cargo fleets continue to rack up more activity, up two per cent versus May 2019. Business aviation activity in May 2021 was less than one per cent off May 2019. WingX data reveals that, for the year so far, almost 2.5 million business jet and prop sectors account for 23 per cent of all fixed wing activity, with this activity trailing the comparable five-month period of 2019 by less than five per cent. In contrast, global airline sectors are still almost 50 per cent behind compared to 2019. In the business aviation sector, branded charter and fractional operations are now moving ahead of comparable 2019 volumes.

Memorial Day weekend in the US saw a substantial increase in business aviation flight activity, with 32,000 flights in the Friday to Monday period, compared to just 17,000 in 2020, with this year's holiday racking up 4,000 more departures than Memorial weekend back in 2019. Scheduled airline traffic, by comparison, was 25 per cent up on the 2020 holiday but still 28 per cent down on the holiday period in 2019. For business aviation travellers, the most popular destinations were Nantucket, Martha's Vineyard, Las Vegas, Saint Simons, Albuquerque, Miami-Opa Locka and Westhampton Beach. This Memorial Day, there were 52 flights from White Plains into Nantucket Memorial, with the same pair seeing only nine flights last year and 54 arrivals back in 2019.

At the regional level, the US is continuing to see a very strong recovery in the south west, with Florida the busiest global hub, seeing almost 50,000 more business aviation departures in the month of May than the next busiest state, Texas. Moreover, business jet and prop activity out of airports in Florida is running 34 per cent ahead of May 2020 and 18 per cent ahead of May 2019. New Jersey is the only top ten state that is not yet ahead of 2020 this year. Apart from Florida, both Colorado and Arizona saw more business aviation arrivals in May 2021 compared to May 2019. In 2021 to date, Part 135 and 91K activity is setting new records and is busier than 2019, but private activity is still lagging. Light and super-mid activity is dominant, being busier than ever, whilst heavy jet movements languish 14 per cent below 2019 levels.

The recovery in business aviation in Europe is slower but starting to pick up pace. For the month of May, flights were up by 30 per cent compared to 2020, but still 17 per cent below 2019. Spain was the biggest market to see May 2021 levels surpass 2019, whilst bigger markets France and Spain lagged 2019 activity by 20 per cent and the UK still trails 2019 by 46 per cent and remains behind comparable 2020 by 14 per cent. The Champions League between two English teams in Porto nevertheless drew strong demand from the UK, with more than 80 business aviation movements between UK airports and Porto over the weekend. The Monaco Grand Prix also drew a relatively large number of business aviation flights, with 508 arrivals during the five days compared to just 78 last year, although this is still 29 per cent down on the 2019 event. There were exceptions however; arrivals from Majorca into Nice were up 71 per cent compared to the same period back in 2019.

Outside the US and Western Europe, stand-out growth in business aviation in Turkey and Russia continues, with trends respectively gaining 16 per cent and 32 per cent on 2019. Russia domestic flights account for 40 per cent of the country's departures and these doubled in May 2021 compared to May 2019. There have been even larger increases in connections between Russia and UAE, Kazakhstan, Greece and Serbia. The UAE has been consistently growing activity this year, with May's activity up 80 per cent on May 2019. The busiest connections from UAE have been with India, Russia, Saudi and Bahrain. Elsewhere, business jet travel is still far behind 2019 in Mexico and Canada, although flights from Mexico to the US are up 20 per cent on 2019. Business jet activity in Saudi has now fully recovered, and China's domestic activity has doubled compared to May 2019.

WingX MD Richard Koe comments: “The tide is turning as vaccination programmes start to release restrictions on all aviation activity, with an emphasis on leisure and domestic trips. This was demonstrated during Memorial Day in the US. Business aviation flight activity during the recent Monaco Grand Prix and UEFA Finals was still pretty modest compared to before the pandemic, underlining the recovery lag in Europe. Elsewhere there are much stronger rebounds, with the Middle East standing out.”

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