Bizjet activity eclipsing 2019 levels, not just in Florida

27 May 2021

27/05/2021 – WINGX’s weekly Business Aviation Bulletin.  

Overall Comment
Business aviation recovery is accelerating past pre-pandemic trends in many places, with the US charter market taking the lead, Florida the hub. In Western Europe, demand has surged in response to selectively lifted travel restrictions. Flight activity from Eastern Europe to Russia and the Middle East is busier than ever. All told, the business aviation charter market looks to be well teed up for this summer.

With 330,000 sectors operated so far in May 2021, business aviation traffic has more than 20% of all fixed wing aviation movements this month, closing the gap on May 2019 to just 2%, maintaining more than double the traffic vs May last year. The deficit so far this year compared to the January through May period 2019 is now 8.7%, with business jet and turboprop operations up more than a third compared to last year to date. Global cargo traffic continues to outpace both 2020 and 2019 activity, whilst Scheduled Airline activity is only edging back, up by three times compared to May last year, but still down 10% compared to 2020 through May, and slightly closing the gap on 2019, 44% lower on a YOY basis.

Chart 1: Global business aviation versus other fixed wing sectors, May YTD vs 2020 and 2019.

Click to expand

North America
North America has a slightly stronger recovery in Scheduled Airline activity, trailing May 2019 by 39% so far this month, with the recovery in business aviation far further advanced; flights down by only 3.5% versus comparable May 2019, the gap clearly closing on the 9% shortfall on YTD 2019. The United States is seeing the bulk of this activity, with 1.2 million jet and prop sectors flown this year, up 40% on last year, down 7% on comparable 2019. Canada is well back on the recovery curve, up 13% on last year but still trailing 15% on 2019 trends. Mexico likewise is a long way back on pre-pandemic activity through May. Some Caribbean countries are also still well off, including Sint Maarten and Saint Barthélemy, even as they start to recover on last year. Other Caribbean destinations have managed to break records this year, with arrivals into the Dominican Republic, Turks and Caicos and US Virgin Islands well up vs 2019.

Florida has extended its dominance as the busiest State in North America, with 177,000 business aviation departures this year, up 62% on last year and chalking up an impressive 22% gain on the same period in 2019. Neither Texas nor California, next placed, have recovered pre-pandemic trends, despite being 40% up on last year. Whereas Colorado, perennially popular during the lockdown, has maintained a small lead over pre-pandemic trends. Arizona has also surged as a destination in demand this year, with arrivals up 12% on comparable 2019. New York is making a rapid recovery, with 56% increase in flights this year over last and only 1% deficit vs 2019. New Jersey, in contrast, is still seeing a third less activity than pre-pandemic. Other States with more traffic this year than in 2019 include South Carolina, and, exceptional among other Canadian territories, British Colombia.

Chart 2: Business aviation vs Scheduled airline departures from New York airports in 2021

Click to expand

The bulk of the recovery in business aviation traffic in the US is coming in the Light Jet Segment, with sectors up 52% on last year, and up 3% on comparable 2019. Light Jet movements are up, versus 2019, in 7 of the top 10 US States. Branded Charter operations in Light Jets are 21% ahead of 2019 trends, and almost 50% ahead of pre-pandemic trends in Florida, South Carolina, Arizona. It’s a similarly strong recovery story for Super Midsize jets, with Branded Charter sectors on these aircraft up 50% on last year, up 14% on 2019. Fractional operations on Super Mid jets are up 61% versus last year, up 21% compared to 2019. The busiest pairs being flown by Fractional operators this month are between Florida and New York – Palm Beach, White Plains and Teterboro. Dallas is standing out too, especially connections to Denver, Scottsdale, and Austin.

Europe is starting to see a much stronger catch-up, with business jet and turboprop sectors down only 8% this month compared to May 2019, 144% more flights than during locked down May 2020. In contrast, Scheduled Airline sectors in Europe are trailing 70% behind May 2019 activity. For business aviation traffic, the market has picked up by 26% compared to the first 5 months of last year and has closed within 20% of 2019 levels for that period. Western Europe has the weakest regional recovery, with the UK still 19% behind last year, almost 50% down vs 2019. Business aviation activity in the UK has picked up 30% over the course of the month, with some outbound traffic picking up from Farnborough and Biggin Hill to Paris and South of France destinations. With Portugal one of the few destinations to get onto the UK’s green list, business aviation connections bounced considerably, 30% higher compared to May 2019.

Chart 3: Business aviation vs Scheduled airline departures from London to Portugal YTD 2021

Click to expand

Rest of World:
Business jet travel in Asia, Africa and South America is also now exceeding 2019 as well as 2020 levels. Stand-out growth is evident in Brazil, Australia, China, the UAE, India, Nigeria. Saudi Arabia, Morocco and Japan are some of the few countries still behind 2019 trends. Much of the recovery is coming in domestic not international traffic, with UAE-India the top cross-border flow outside the US and Europe. Shorter sector activity is reflected in Ultra Long Range jet usage, still down 10% vs pre-pandemic activity.

Categories: COVID Recovery


The WINGX Daily TRACKER provides you with a daily-updated dashboard on all business aviation flights operated globally.