Bizjet demand surges on, despite growing repercussions from Ukraine

17 Mar 2022

17/3/2022 – WINGX’s weekly Business Aviation Bulletin.  

Overall Comment
Russia is now unplugged from the global aviation sector and that’s shown up abruptly in the decline in business jet arrivals in Europe, with spillover decline in aircraft service support and sales to come over the next few months. But so far, the geopolitical shock and economic reverberations have not dented aggregate demand for business jets, which is still higher than ever worldwide.

Ukraine Crisis
The direct impact on aviation out of due to the drop in activity out of Russia, Belarus and Ukraine clearly accelerated during the third week of the war (7th – 13th March). Compared to the previous week (28th Feb – 3rd March) Scheduled Airline, Business Jet and Cargo flights out of Russia were down respectively by 11%, 43%, and 92%. Taking the last 3 weeks and comparing to the same weeks in 2021, 2020 and 2019, Russia-outbound business jet demand is -26%, -21% and -16%. Vnukovo airport, which ranked as 3rd airport in the European region for business jet activity in 2021, is now ranking 24th in Europe, in terms of bizjet departures in the last week.

Chart 1: Busiest Russian airports (bizjets) 8th March – 14th March 2022 vs 2021, 2020, 2019

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The wider European demand for business aviation aircraft has hardly been affected by the Ukraine crisis, with bizjet flights so far this month up by 48%, 18% and 12% compared to same period in 2021, 2020 and 2019. The impact on the global trend is even smaller: bizjet activity is up 35% and 25% for March 2022 vs 2021 and vs 2019. Scheduled airlines continue to have a much slower recovery, with YTD-22 trends down by 31% compared to YTD-19.

Back in March 2019, 5% of all bizjet arrivals in Europe came from Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus, falling to 2% so far this month. Looking forward to the summer, European charter customers can expect a bigger dent from Russians being excluded from the market. Back in June 2019, there were 311 departures from Vnukovo via branded charter and fractional operators. Last year that number rose to 501. The most popular destinations in Europe were Paris Le Bourget, Nice and Farnborough, with connections to Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine representing 1%, 5%, 3% of this activity respectively.

The biggest growth in Russia outbound bizjet flights last year was to the Middle East, particularly Dubai, which saw an 194% increase in arrivals during 2021 versus 2019. Even since the war started, outbound flights to Dubai from Vnukovo have been relatively resilient: 42 departures so far this month, 35% fewer than comparable last year, but still 250% more than during same period 2019.

United States
The US is continuing to see record breaking business aviation demand. Through mid-March 2022, business jets in the US have flown 109,000 sectors, up by 21% versus comparable 2019. The Branded Charter and Fractional Operators, loosely the part-135 and part-91K fleets, are flying an additional 52,500 hours this year compared to same period 2019, translating to a 23% growth in flight hours. Despite growing economic concerns, Charter and Fractional activity has accelerated 16% in the last 7 days.

The busiest three charter operators, Wheels UP, VistaJet and Jet Edge, have operated a combined 1,800 flights in the last week, combining a total active fleet of 212 aircraft.

Chart 2: Bizjet Operator Type Trends for US for March 1st – 14th 2022 vs 2021, 2020, 2019

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Rest of World
Excluding the US and Europe, global business jet activity so far in March 2022 is up 36%, 20%, 10% versus same period 2021, 2020, 2019. The Middle East is seeing a blip this month from visitors to the yacht show at Dubai Harbour. UAE airports in Dubai (combined) and Abu Dhabi have seen 585 bizjet arrivals this month, up 92% vs same period in March 2019.

The country with trends in activity clearly against the grain is China: business jet flights from Jan to mid-March 2022 vs comparative 2019 are down 31%, and in terms of flight hours, down by 49%.

Chart 3: Top Bizjet segments in China, Jan 1st – March 14th, 2022, vs 2021, 2020, 2019

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