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European charter is finally getting its act back together
Last year in August, Europe witnessed the first post-pandemic bump, premature as it turned out, but August 2021 so far is up by 23 per cent on last August and up by 28 per cent on August 2019.

Business jet activity is moving ahead of 2019 in terms of sectors flown so far in 2021, two per cent ahead of January-August two years ago as of mid-month.

This upwards trend contrasts with a 42 per cent deficit for scheduled airlines. Indeed, the airlines are flying only 17 per cent more than during the same year-to-date period in 2020, while business jet activity has bounced up 49 per cent compared to last year. WingX reports that charter and fractional business jet operator activity is up more than 10 per cent this year compared to two years ago, with private flight departments now back on trend and aircraft management operators still trailing by a couple of points. Much of the rebound has come in the last two months, with the first half of August showing that all business jet sectors, 164,000 sectors, were up by 18 per cent compared to August 2019.

August is seeing a very hot month for business aviation activity in Europe. August last year saw the first post-pandemic bump, premature as it turned out, but August 2021 so far is up by 23 per cent on last August and up by 28 per cent on August 2019. France, Germany, Italy and Spain are all seeing 20 per cent growth in business aviation activity in the first half of August. Only the UK is behind 2019 trends, and now only slightly, at minus one per cent versus a comparable August 2019. Greece, as well as Switzerland and Belgium, are seeing 40 per cent more flights than before. In terms of sectors flown, Scandinavia, which has lagged in the recovery this summer, is now posting six per cent more activity than August 2019. Nice is the summer hub for business jet demand as usual and this month flights are up almost 30 per cent versus two years ago. Zurich is the airport with strongest summer growth, with flights up 40 per cent this month versus August 2019.

The North American region is driving the global growth, with a 75 per cent share of activity and a 17 per cent growth this month versus two years ago. The charter market is particularly hot, with 30 per cent more sectors flown than in August 2019 and fractional traffic not far behind with 25 per cent gains. There is strong growth across all aircraft segments, although it is notable that the larger cabins are now seeing the biggest gains on pre-pandemic levels: ultra-long range jets are flying 25 per cent more than in August 2019 and super midsize jets are up by 22 per cent. Fifty four percent of the ULR jet activity this month in North America is being operated by private flight departments, up by 23 per cent compared to 2019. Gulfstream 600/650 flights are up 65 per cent compared to August 2019 and up 54 per cent in terms of hours flown.

The US is doing far better in terms of flight demand than the other large countries in the North America region, with Mexico and Canada still making up the gap on 2019. So far in August, business jet flights are up 21 per cent compared to two years ago. Turboprop and piston flights are yet to fully recover, but light jet demand is very solid, up 20 per cent on 2019. California is back to top-ranking as the busiest US state, with this month's numbers up 15 per cent on August 2019. Florida has dropped back to third behind Texas, but flights from Florida are still resoundingly up at 34 per cent higher than two years ago. All the recovery is in the domestic market, with international sectors still down by three per cent versus August 2019, although that's a big improvement on recent months. Business aviation flights from the US to Mexico are up 12 per cent versus 2019, in contrast to flights from US to Canada, which are still trailing by 43 per cent.

Across the rest of the world, business jet flight activity is up 26 per cent compared to August 2019, with 54 per cent growth in domestic sectors, although international sectors are still down by 10 per cent. Mature business aviation markets, such as those in Australia, Brazil and South Africa, continue to see more activity than in 2019, whilst August has still not shown a full recovery in Mexico, Canada and Saudi Arabia. China, which has seen more business jet activity year-to-date than in 2019, has also seen a slump in flights in the last few weeks, with renewed virus restrictions limiting mobility. With regards to the major international story of the week, in Afghanistan business jet activity has been minimal, although ad hoc and emergency traffic has been intense, unsurprisingly. The busiest connections are between Kabul and India, UAE and India, Iran and Qatar.

WingX MD Richard Koe comments: “August is seeing the same stellar growth in business jet demand as we saw in July, with Europe seeing the biggest bump this month. The demand is clearly leisure-focused and rather seasonal, but the longer it endures the more business aviation looks to be on a sustainable growth path. Outside the leisure and corporate markets, business jets and other aircraft are also seeing growth in unscheduled operations across government, cargo, logistics and humanitarian sectors.”

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