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US charter surges as Europe begins to pull its socks up
Europe is starting to see its own belated recovery in business jet flight demand as travel restrictions are lifted. France and Germany are seeing demand inch above 2019 this month but still have deficits on the whole year.

There were 177,000 business jet and turboprop sectors flown worldwide in the first 12 days of July, representing 11 per cent more activity than the same period in 2019 and more than 40 per cent up on last year. Comparatively, commercial airlines are gradually coming back, with same period's global activity trailing July 2019 by 33 per cent and showing a year-to-date trend of -44 per cent compared to January-July 2019. WingX figures reveal that business jet activity is roaring back in both Europe and the United States this month, with European activity up nine per cent versus July 2019, and US business jet demand almost 30 per cent higher than in July 2019. There is a considerable gap between Europe and the US on a year-to-date basis, with European business jet activity still 11 per cent behind 2019, whereas US business jet activity this year is now four per cent up on 2019.

The US market's strong recovery is leisure-orientated, with last week's surge in fourth of July travel reflecting a year-long positive recovery in Friday to Sunday business jet traffic, contrasting with still weaker than 2019 weekday demand. The leisure demand is being generated through the charter market, with year-to-date charters up 10 per cent on a comparable 2019 and July so far seeing a 30 per cent increase in comparable pre-pandemic demand. Across the charter market, utilisation rates are climbing towards 50 hours per unit per month, well ahead of historical trends. The core demand in the US is for super light and medium-cabin jets, with Phenom 300, Challenger 300 and Citation Latitude types seeing very high utilisation. The last month is also seeing a strong comeback in large cabin jet activity.

Geographically, there is still considerable variance in the recovery of business jet activity in the US. Florida continues to storm ahead this month, with 26 per cent more business aviation sectors than July 2019, in line with its gains so far this year. California has reasserted itself as the second busiest state, with flights up by half this month compared to last year and more than 10 per cent ahead of July 2019. But year-to-date there is still a gap to close, with California being seven per cent behind January-July 2019, a similar deficit occurring in New York, and still double-digit deficits showing for the Chicago and New York metropolitan areas. Teterboro, restored to the global airport hub for business aviation, has doubled its activity this month versus last year, but still languishes 30 per cent behind 2019 for year-to-date activity. By contrast Nantucket and Aspen, respectively the seventh and ninth busiest airports this year for business aviation, are both seeing activity well over 25 per cent higher than pre-pandemic levels.

Europe is now starting to see its own belated recovery in business jet flight demand as travel restrictions are lifted. The scheduled commercial airlines are still in a woeful state, with activity this month trailing July 2019 by more than 40 per cent. In contrast, business aviation flights are up nine per cent against the same July period 2019. The regional bounce is significantly flattered by sustained surges in demand in Greece, with flights up almost 50 per cent this month, in Croatia, where arrivals are up 55 per cent in July, and also in some larger markets such as Spain, where sectors are gaining by 25 per cent, and Switzerland, where demand is 18 per cent higher than normal. The UK and Ireland are the clear back-markets, lagging comparable 2019 activity by more than 20 per cent. France and Germany are seeing demand inch above 2019 this month but still have big deficits for the year so far versus 2019.

Outside of Europe and the US, strong recovery in domestic business jet travel continued for Brazil, China, India, Australia, Russia, Turkey and Nigeria, where activity is well ahead of pre-pandemic levels. The Middle East has been a consistently strong recovery story, also including international flights, with Dubai particularly buoyant. Elsewhere, busy business aviation airports such as Toluca, Calgary and Del Norte, are seeing a decent bounce from last summer, but are still well behind 2019. The global airports with the biggest rebounds compared to 2019 include Nassau, Sao Paulo, Cabo San Lucas and Tel Aviv Ben Gurion. Across these airports, light jets have had the biggest summer gains, being up 10 per cent, while large cabin jets haven't caught up; its sectors are down by 12 per cent and flights hours are lagging by 20 per cent.

WingX MD Richard Koe comments: “The business aviation recovery has stepped up in July, with the US still dominating, heading into a summer season that is likely to surpass the normal seasonal peaks in spring and fall. European activity is finally on the rebound overall, but still looks fragile in Western Europe. The Northern Hemisphere's next few months should be buoyed by summer charter demand, with the upside potential of business travellers getting back on the road by September.”

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