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US reaches new heights thanks to fractional fliers
Business jet and prop activity in the US is up 43 per cent versus last year and down only five per cent compared to 2019 through the start of June. Arizona and Colorado have been performing particularly well.

Global business aviation activity went up by 49 per cent in the first 10 days of June compared to the same few days in June 2020, but still 5.3 per cent below the opening period of June 2019. By contrast, scheduled airline activity is tracking 49 per cent down versus 2019 over the last week. Data analysed by WingX shows that since 1 January, business jet and prop traffic, comprising just under two million sectors, has rebounded 40 per cent compared to last year, trailing the comparable period in 2019 by seven per cent. Scheduled passenger airlines have been two per cent less active this year than last year, and remain 46 per cent behind 2019. Global cargo operations are 13 per cent up on last year, seven per cent ahead of 2019.

With the recent launch by Dassault of the Falcon 10X and the coinciding demise of Aerion's supersonic jet, there is attention on the recovery of the largest and longest range jets, which have been slowest to regain pre-pandemic activity in the last 15 months. Specifically, the ultra long range business jet segment was severely affected by global pandemic restrictions in 2020, with a 40 per cent drop in sectors and a 50 per cent crash in hours flown between March and December last year. This year, the ULR segment has recovered, with sectors up 30 per cent versus 2020, but still 17 per cent below the comparable 2019 period. 57,000 of the 100,000 sectors flown so far this year by ULR jets have originated in the US, with this activity running only 10 per cent behind 2019. Looking just at charter operations, US-originating ULR sectors are flying seven per cent less than in 2019, and from Florida, ULR jet charters are up more than 50 per cent compared to 2019.

The resurgence of all business aviation activity in the US in the last six weeks has been remarkable. Business jet and prop activity is up 43 per cent versus last year and down only five per cent compared to 2019 through the start of June. The charter market is booming; figures are 50 per cent up on 2020, with 10 per cent more sectors flown than in the comparable five-plus months of 2019. Six of the busiest US states have seen more charter activity this year than in 2019, with Florida racking up 40 per cent growth compared to pre-pandemic. Having been severely curtailed during 2020, business jet flights out of New York have rebounded 60 per cent this year, and into June they are trending four per cent above 2019 levels. Both Arizona and Colorado have double-digit leads on pre-pandemic flight activity. Super midsize flights are up 10 per cent nationally versus the January-June period in 2019.

In Europe, business jet activity is still 18 per cent off pre-pandemic volumes, even if 2021 year to date has seen a welcome 33 per cent bounce versus 2020. By contrast, scheduled airline activity in Europe is 71 per cent below pre-pandemic activity and still trailing 2019 by 37 per cent. The business turboprop segment is the most resilient in Europe, now being within eight per cent of comparable 2019 activity. The last six weeks have seen a resurgence across most aircraft segments, with prop, super light, entry level and very light jet activity trending above pre-pandemic levels. Ultra-long range jets are still relatively idle, with flight hours down 40 per cent since the start of May compared to May-June 2019. The star of the show in Europe is the Citation Mustang, with double the number of flights since April versus the same six-week period in 2020 and an eight per cent lead in sectors flown in comparable 2019.

There is a wide spectrum of recovery in business aviation across Europe; a comparison with May-June 2019 shows solid growth in flights this year from and to Spain, almost 30 per cent higher numbers out of Greece, single-digit deficits in Germany and Austria, a 13 per cent decline in busiest market France, more than 20 per cent shortfalls across Scandinavia and a 28 per cent decline for the UK. Likewise at an airport level, sunspots like Ibiza, Mallorca and Malaga are seeing record-breaking flight activity, whilst top airports like Nice and Paris Le Bourget are still languishing 20 per cent below the comparable 2019 period. Formerly the busiest UK airport, Luton barely ranks top-10, with departures still 50 per cent below pre-pandemic levels. In contrast, flights from Moscow Vnukovo, now the second busiest in Europe, are up 40 per cent compared to 2019.

WingX MD Richard Koe comments: “Coming into the summer the expectation is that wherever travel restrictions allow, there will be a surge in leisure travel. These indicators are getting flagged in booking data and already evident in the record movements in hotspots ranging from Maldives to Aspen to Ibiza. With business travel starting to come back, we would expect a V shaped recovery to continue in 2021, albeit with a lot of regional divergence.”

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