Bizjet market still hot, but signs of slowdown as global economy falters

24 Mar 2022

24/3/2022 – WINGX’s weekly Business Aviation Bulletin.  

Overall Comment
The regional impact of the war in Ukraine on flight activity is predictably severe, with almost no inbound flights to Europe, business jet departures from Russia heading to the Middle East region. The wider growth trends in business jet activity are clearly slowing on the earlier months of 2022, with the charter market relatively impacted most, whilst private flight activity appears to retain a strong rebound on last year.

Ukraine Crisis
The war in Ukraine continues have a significant effect albeit at a regional level so far. Compared to week 3 of the conflict (7th Feb – 13th March), scheduled airline, business jet and cargo flights out of Russia were down respectively by 6%, 11%, and 100%. Taking the last 4 weeks and comparing these to the same weeks in 2021, 2020 and 2019, Russia-outbound business jet activity is -6%, -26% and -5%. Vnukovo, which ranked as 2nd airport in the European region for business jet activity in March 2021, is now ranking 15th in Europe, in terms of bizjet departures so far in March this year.

Chart 1: Fixed wing flight departures from Russia, Ukraine, Belarus in March-to-date 2022.

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Business jet demand in the wider European region has started to ebb a little. The growth in flights month-to-date compared to last year is still significant, 38% more sectors flown so far, but compared to the same period of March 2019, the upward trend is 5%, compared to 12% growth in the first 2 weeks of March.

The global bizjet growth has also slowed: last week the month-to-date was up 35% and 25%, compared to March in 2021 and 2019, and this week the month-to-date growth has declined to 26% and 17%, still impressive, but may mark the start of a slowdown.

In the rest of Europe, London is the metropolitan hub of business jet activity this month, with almost 3,000 business jet departures across the London airports, and overall departures up by 14% compared to March 2019. There is even stronger growth at other European cities, notably Milan, Zurich, and over 50% growth in bizjet departures Istanbul and Madrid. Business jet demand is dropping in Germany, with both Munich and Berlin airports seeing less activity than in March 2019.

The busiest aircraft types in Europe this month are flying considerably more than in March 2019: Cessna Citation Excel sectors are up by 11%, Phenom 300 flights up by 41%, Challenger 300 sectors up by 33% compared to March 2021.

Chart 2: Busiest city departure points for business jets in March 2022 in Europe.

North America
The US market is still setting records for business jet demand: 30% more sectors flown in the first three weeks of March compared to March 2019. There has been some slowdown in the last 7 days across the region: compared to the 2nd week of March, this week’s flights are up by “only” 23% vs 2019 in the US, up by 18% in the region.

Business jet demand in Canada and Mexico still hasn’t recovered from the pandemic period, whereas flights to and from Bahamas, Puerto Rico, Sint Maarten are all well up. Business jet arrivals into Costa Rica have doubled this year compared to 3 years ago.

Charter and Fractional operators are still picking up strong demand, although the private flight departments, including corporate flights, are showing more than 20% growth this month

Chart 3: Business jet departures from countries in North America in March 2022.

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Rest of World
Outside North America and Europe, global business jet activity so far in March this year is +32%, +27%, +9% vs comparative March 2021, 2020, 2019. Private aircraft are driving the demand this month, sectors up 37% & 9% vs 2021 and 2019.

Fractional operators have seen the most increase in departures prior to the pandemic, up 69% compared to last year, up 50% compared to 2019. International sporting events continue to be a strong pull for business jet travel: the Bahrain Grand Prix saw a four-fold increase in arrivals. China, in the grips of another lockdown, is seeing a severe depletion in activity: international business jet sectors are down 90% compared to March 2019.

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