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Record breaking July can't prevent utilisation dip
Business jet demand may have peaked, as the softening charter market suggests lower utilisation to come. In the US the trend is clear, and it is starting to show in Europe despite record-breaking activity in the UK in July.

July 2022 was the busiest July on record for business jet flights operated globally, and the sixth busiest month overall according to WingX's weekly Global Market Tracker. But it was only the fifth busiest month so far this year and just 2.5 per cent busier in terms of sectors operated compared to July last year, up 1.7 per cent if turboprop activity is included. Week 30, ending on the last day of the month, was two per cent up on week 30 last year and down one per cent versus week 29 this year. For the year so far, business jet demand looks very strong, up 22 per cent on same period 2021, up 82 per cent on comparable 2020 and up 21 per cent on the pre-pandemic January-July 2019 period. As a comparison, the top five busiest commercial airlines (Southwest Airlines, United Express, American Airlines, Ryanair and Delta Airlines) flew 12 per cent more flights in July 2022 than July 2021, six per cent below activity levels in July 2019.

In North America business jets and turboprops flew one per cent fewer sectors in July 2022 compared to July 2021, even if they sustained a sizeable increase of seven per cent above July three years ago, up 15 per cent if only business jet sectors are considered. The slowdown is slight for the dominant US market, similar for the still-recovering Canadian and Mexican markets but quite steep for Bahamas, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and Turks and Caicos, all of which saw record-breaking business jet activity during the pandemic.

The slight decline in traffic in the US is most obvious in the Part 135 and 91K category, with four per cent fewer sectors operated in week 30 year-on-year, which is consistent with the last four-week trend. The trend is more severe for dedicated branded charter operations, whose sectors were down by 13 per cent in July 2022 versus July 2021. Fractional operator flights were flat in July year on year. Aircraft management operators flew six per cent fewer missions, whereas private flight departments were nine per cent busier than last July. Corporate flight department flights edged up by two per cent year on year, but were flat compared to July 2019. The top airport pair in the US in July was Harry Reid International airport in Las Vegas to John Wayne airport in Los Angeles, which was down one per cent on last year. Van Nuys business jet flights to Harry Reid were down 24 per cent in July 2022 year on year.

Business jet flights in the European area were up 10 per cent in July 2022 compared to July 2021, marking the busiest July on record for the continent, fully 23 per cent busier than three years ago in July 2019. While France was the busiest departure country for business jets in July, the biggest year on year increase came from the UK, which saw a more than doubling of flights in July 2021. Both Italy and Spain continue to attract record breaking activity this summer. The downwards trend in Russia softened in July, with 'just' a 49 per cent drop in business jet departures compared to July 2021. In week 30 there was some indication of a broader softening, with both Germany and Switzerland seeing slightly less activity than in the same week last year. Charter operators in Europe flew two per cent more than in July 2021, up 16 per cent on July 2019.

Outside Europe and North America, business jet activity was up 21 per cent in July 2022 compared to July 2021 and up 52 per cent versus July 2019. There were some signs of slowing demand, with Brazil the busiest market but registering two per cent fewer flights than in July 2021. Flight activity in Morocco, Colombia and China was also down on July last year. Business jet activity in China was down by 41 per cent year on year and is trending down by 23 per cent compared to July 2019. Within China, the Gulfstream GV/550 is flying 52 per cent less than in July three years ago, while the Global Express fleet is 45 per cent less active. Across all of Asia, business jet flights were up 15 per cent compared to July last year and up 24 per cent for hours flown. The Middle East region may be seeing some slowdown, with business jet departures down by five per cent in week 30 year on year.

WingX managing director Richard Koe says: “The record market for business jet demand has obviously peaked, with the quickly softening charter market the lead indicator of lower utilisation to come. The trends are clear in the US market and are starting to show in parts of the European market, although the UK saw record-breaking business jet activity in July 2022.”

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