Business aviation capacity crunch as Thanksgiving week approaches

18 Nov 2021

18/11/2021 – WINGX’s weekly Business Aviation Bulletin.  

Overall Comment
Business jet operators will be preparing for the Thanksgiving Holiday demand with some trepidation, with ongoing demand for flights still breaking all-time records. Growth is even stronger in Europe, although there is relatively more slack capacity in the fleet than in the US. Transatlantic sectors have also burgeoned. Other regions have seen a relapse, notably in China.

Half-way through the month of November 2021, 151,000 flight sectors have been operated by business jets globally, up by 60% on November 2020, up 16% on November 2019. Business jet sector length averaged 537 nautical miles, up by 6% compared to November 2019. There have been 15,200 business jets active this month globally, of which 11,500 have been active in the United States. In contrast to business jet activity, Commercial Passenger traffic is down 32% this month compared to November 2019, though up by 47% year on year. Year to date, business jet sectors are up 4%, airline sectors down by 39% compared to two years ago.

As expected, transatlantic traffic in business jet activity has rebounded in November since the loosening of covid restrictions on inbound arrivals to the US. Down by 27% for the year-to-date, compared to 2019, arrivals into the US from Europe this month are 161% higher than in November 2020, and a record-breaking 11% higher than in November 2019. Scheduled passenger services are slower to respond, still 35% lower than comparable November 2019, even if the month so-far shows an 80% snap-back on last year’s traffic. Fractional fleets got the biggest jump, transatlantic sectors up by 55% compared to November 2019.

Chart 1 – Daily flights Europe to North America 2019-2021

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North America
US operators are looking ahead to very strong demand for Thanksgiving Holidays starting on 25th November. Back in 2019 the 28th November to December 1st period saw 23,675 business jet sectors operated, with the much-subdued 2020 holidays seeing a 16% dip in that activity. On current trend, this year’s holiday will put fleet capacity under extreme pressure with as much as 20% increased demand, likely to fall heaviest on card and fractional programs. The footprint is likely to resemble pre-pandemic patterns, with Thanksgiving 2019 highlighting East and West Coast connections. Back then, there were at least 50 business jet connections during the 4 day holiday between Teterboro-West Palm Beach, Dallas-Los Angeles, Teterboro-Boston, San Antonio-Monterrey. The busiest jets were Challenger 300/350, Citation XLS, Embraer 300.

European business jet demand continues to break records, with the first half of November 2021 surging 28% above November 2019. Midsize jet, Very Light Jet and Super Light Jet flights are trending over 40% above normal. Having spent most of the year at the back of the recovery trend, the UK has had more flights so far in November than any other country in Europe, and 26% more than in comparable November 2019. Farnborough was the 3rd busiest airport in Europe, Biggin Hill is ranked 9th, with almost 50% increase on comparable November 2019. Germany’s domestic market is the busiest, although 13% below two years ago. UK-France is the busiest international connection, with 300 aircraft flying 32% more sectors than two years ago.

Chart 2: Busiest pairs flown internationally by business jets from the UK in November 2021

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Within the wider European area, just over 11,500 business jet sectors were flown in the opening week of November, up 33% on the first 7 days in November 2019. Year to date, business jet flights are up 3% vs 2019. This compares to scheduled airline flights trending down 29% vs the opening 7 days of November 2019, down 53% vs 2019 year to date. Almost 60% of business jet flights from Europe are less than 90 minutes long, departures of flights of this length are up 27% vs 2019. The Cessna Citation Excel / XLS is the most popular business jet platform, operating 1,243 sectors in week 1 of November, up 45% vs 2019. Switzerland is a particularly popular destination this month, business jet arrivals up 55% vs 2019, the United Kingdom enjoys similar growth, boosted by the traffic into COP26.

Chart 3 – Business jet departures from China in 2021 vs 2020, 2019.

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Rest of world
Regions outside United States and Europe originated 18,027 business jet departures in the first half of November 2021, a decrease of 2% compared to the start of November 2019, up 39% compared to last year. The Chinese business jet market is in the spotlight this week following NetJets’ investment in Shenzen-based Amber Aviation. China’s market has hit a significant slowdown this month, 44% fewer sectors flown than in November 2019. Year-to-date, business jet sectors originating in China are up by 16% compared to 2019, although flight hours are trailing by 19%. This compares favorably to Hong Kong, where business jet departures are down by 55% compared to two years ago, even 40% less than in November 2020.

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