Bizjet demand slowing in Europe as Ukraine crisis spills into the economy

7 Apr 2022

7/4/2022 – WINGX’s weekly Business Aviation Bulletin.  

Overall Comment
Repercussions from the Ukraine crisis have started to affect business jet demand outside the immediate conflict zone, with the first few days of April seeing the first lull in growth in business jet activity in Europe since Covid restrictions started lifting in the middle of last year. The US market is yet to see any slowdown, with more charter operator consolidation reflected in very strong Part 135 trends. Other regions are also seeing strong growth in bizjet demand, with China a big exception; business jet flight activity in the first few days of April has fallen 70% compared to last year, as new Covid lockdowns ramp up.

Ukraine Crisis
The war in Ukraine continues to significantly impact aviation activity out of Russia, Belarus and Ukraine. Compared to flight activity in March 2021, business jet sectors originating in these countries fell by 65%. Dedicated cargo operator flights collapsed by 93%. Scheduled commercial airline activity was down by less, 24% lower than March 2021. The drop in business jet activity is particularly acute due to last year seeing very strong trends; compared to March 2019, business jet flights from these countries are down “only” 57%.

Chart 1: Scheduled, Bizjet and Cargo departures from RBU March 1st – 31st 2022 vs 2021, 2020, 2019

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Focusing solely on Russian business jet departures, sectors flown in March this year were down 57% compared to last year, down 45% compared to 2019. Domestic bizjet trips made up 63% of sectors flown in March, and despite a 40% decline compared to last year, domestic bizjet sectors were up in March by 11% compared to 2019. Unsurprisingly the biggest declines in March were in international sectors, 70% lower than pre-pandemic March 2019. By far the most resilient international connection from Russia is to United Arab Emirates, 105 outbound flights in March, up 13% compared to February this year, down by 47% compared to March last year, however, almost double the sectors compared to March three years ago.

Chart 2: Fractional & branded charter business jets vs Scheduled airlines from Moscow March 1st – 31st 2022 vs 2021, 2020, 2019

Despite the ongoing Ukraine crisis and deepening economic concerns, business jets flew more sectors in Europe in March 2021 than in pre-pandemic March. Between March 1st – 31st there were 45,000 bizjet sectors originating in Europe, 42% more than last year and 13% more than three years ago. But, in the opening 4 days of April, demand has slowed, sectors are down 4% compared to the same period three years ago. March saw wide disparity in European country trends, with business jet demand in Russia collapsed, flight activity in France and Germany within single digit growth compared to 2019 but well above last year. The UK was ranked third for bizjet departures in March 2019, last month it was second flying 14% more sectors than 2019. In the opening four days of April the UK has been the busiest market, sectors are up by 21% compared to 2019. It has been a slow start to April for activity from Germany, sectors are down 27% compared to the same 4 days in 2019.

North America
In North America, the US hosted 91% of business jet activity in March 2022, demand soared 30% above March 2019 and 28% above March last year. The month ended with Florida continuing to be the hub of US bizjet activity with almost 41,000 departures from the State during the month, almost 50% more than three years ago and 20% more than last year. This growth is continuing into this month; in the opening 4 days of April departures from the state are up 74% compared to 3 years ago. So far this month New Jersey, Illinois and Ohio have seen a slowdown compared to pre-pandemic activity, departures are down 10%, 11% and 16% retrospectively.

Chart 3: Top US states for business jet departures, March 1st – 31st 2022 

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Rest of World
Outside of Europe and the United States, bizjet sectors flew 10% more sectors than pre-pandemic levels, 30% more than last year. Despite strong growth compared to last year, Canada and Mexico, both the largest markets, still failed to recover to pre-pandemic activity. Three countries saw doubling in business jet activity since pre-pandemic: Brazil, Nigeria, United Arab Emirates. China ended up 20th ranked in the rest of world list of business countries for business jet flights in March, demand half of pre-pandemic March. With almost 1,700 departures, Nassau was the busiest rest of world airport for March 2022. Heading into the opening four days of April, Toronto’s Lester B. Pearson is in the top spot with 4 more departures than Nassau.

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