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European summer charter season is up and running
Europe may be trailing the growth in business jet travel across the Atlantic, but as travel restrictions are lifted and the summer season starts, many European destinations are seeing stand-out demand, especially in Greece.

There were 2,634 business jet and turboprop sectors flown in Europe on 21 June 2021, 95 per cent busier than the summer solstice last year and almost exactly matching June 21 2019, according to statistics by WingX.

For the first three weeks of June, business aviation activity in Europe is down only one per cent versus June 2019. That trails the global trend, where worldwide business aviation activity is seven per cent higher in June 2021 than in June 2019. Scheduled airline activity is picking up but still 40 per cent behind compared to 2019. Commercial airlines in the US are only 20 per cent behind the comparable 2019 period, but way behind business jet traffic, which is running at 20 per cent above the levels back in June 2019 and two thirds busier than in June 2020.

Europe may be trailing the stellar growth in business jet travel across the Atlantic, but as travel restrictions are lifted and the summer season starts, many European destinations are seeing stand-out demand. Business jet arrivals into Greece are up 51 per cent compared to June 2019, while arrivals to Portugal are up 66 per cent. Departures from Austria are up 17 per cent, and up five per cent from Germany. Hungary, Serbia, Iceland and Cyprus are all seeing double-digit growth in flights compared to two years ago back in June 2019. Other countries are yet to see this strong recovery, with business aviation flight activity in France trailing June 2019 by 14 per cent, and business aviation departures out of the UK 27 per cent below June 2019, even if 94 per cent up versus June last year.

As the market recovers in Europe, the pattern continues with traditionally busier airports struggling to regain business aviation activity, while smaller airports flourish. Traffic at Geneva, Paris Le Bourget, Nice and London Luton is still well below normal, while aircraft movements at Vienna, Prague and Hamburg are all moving ahead of 2019 trends. Pent-up leisure demand is surging across the classic Mediterranean resorts at Malaga, Ibiza, Olbia and Mykonos. Taking Malaga as an example, business jet arrivals from Switzerland, Portugal and Germany have more than doubled this month compared to June 2019. Business jet arrivals from airports in Russia into Malaga are up four times compared to two years ago. Business jet demand in both Russia and Turkey is soaring, with Moscow Vnukovo departures this month up by 40 per cent compared to June 2019, St Petersburg Pulkovo up 14 per cent and Istanbul Ataturk up by 28 per cent.

In the US, a resurgence in travel demand is demonstrable in unlocked states, where Florida is leading the way with business aviation activity up 54 per cent compared to June 2019. Of the busiest 10 states, only Illinois and New Jersey have less traffic than in June 2019. Teterboro, Washington Dulles and Chicago are amongst the only top airports not to be seeing more activity than in June 2019. Miami-Opa Locka has almost double the flights this month than in June 2019, while Palm Beach is up 60 per cent. McCarran Las Vegas is sharply up this month, with movements 22 per cent higher than in 2019. Top airports like Van Nuys and Westchester are seeing 20 per cent more traffic than pre-pandemic. International flights from the US are still down 12 per cent versus June 2019, but have improved on the 20 per cent deficit for the year-to-date versus 2019.

International trips from the US this month have favoured Caribbean destinations with arrivals into Puerto Rico, US Virgin Islands, Turks and Caicos and Dominican Republic all much higher than in 2019. Global business jet arrivals into the Caribbean are up by 53 per cent so far this month compared to June 2019, with a positive trend of one per cent year to date. The Middle East is another region seeing strong growth in business jet arrivals, 21 per cent up from two years ago. Saudi Arabia is just about back to pre-pandemic demand, while Qatar, UAE, Jordan and Bahrain are seeing double-digit gains over 2019. The Asia Pacific market is also well recovered, with business jet flights out of China up by 12 per cent versus June 2019, although flight hours are still trailing pre-pandemic levels by 30 per cent, reflecting the deep erosion in international connections.

WingX MD Richard Koe comments: “The summer season is up and running in Europe, with demand accelerating beyond 2019 levels across many of the usual VIP hot spots. The European market may have much further to run if it follows the US out of the pandemic, with almost all US states now seeing record business jet activity. The recovery in international flights is under way, notably in Caribbean and Middle Eastern connections. Scheduled airlines are recovering fast, but far enough behind to give business aviation lots of connectivity gaps to fill this summer.”

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