Business jet demand so far withstanding winter virus waves
25/11/2021 – WINGX’s weekly Business Aviation Bulletin.
Business jet demand has sustained its very strong recovery trend from the summer, even accelerating in Europe. The first test comes in the next week, as the US fleet get stretched to meet record Thanksgiving demand; first time buyers may feel remorse if they cannot find aircraft available for the busiest days. The bigger test will come as virus rates pick up into the winter period, with several European countries reasserting mobility restrictions. But for now, the reopening of intercontinental routes, especially transatlantic, is boosting activity.
Through the first 3 weeks of November 2021, business jet demand is up 57% compared to the same three weeks in November 2020, and more tellingly, up 19% compared to November 2019. There is still significant scope for improvement, with global domestic sectors up by 23%, international sectors up by 13%, and intercontinental sectors down by 60% compared to pre-pandemic November 2019. Almost all the growth has come in the shorter sectors, with the sweet spot in the two to three hours sectors, up 20% compared to two years ago. The recovery in scheduled passenger airline traffic has fallen away, with more than 30% deficit this month versus two years ago, and almost 40% off for the year to date. Business aviation is in a far healthier position, with jet sectors up by 5% compared to the first 9 months of 2019.
The North American market, now approaching its busiest holiday period, is seeing flight demand up 17% on pre pandemic November. The US market is hottest, with flights month-to-date more than 50% up on Thanksgiving last year, which had been a strong recovery point in 2020. With 20% increase already on November 2019, this month´s US business jet traffic will smash all previous records for the month. There is scope for more growth; around a third of the airports in the US are still behind where they were in November 2019. Very strong growth in Florida in particular is sustaining the recovery momentum.
Chart 1 – Growth and Decline of business jet departures from mainline US Airports Nov 1st – 21st 2021 vs 2019
The resumption of transatlantic travel has evidently boosted the recovery rate in business jet demand, with the first three weeks´ reopening prompting 18% more flights than in November 2019. Commercial airlines have seen a much weaker resumption in demand, with transatlantic sectors still trailing by 34% this month versus two years ago. Fractional operators are flying 36% more this month between Europe and the US than in November 2019. Ultra-Range Jets have flown over 1,200 sectors between Europe and North America, with the Gulfstream 650 flying 87% more sectors than two years ago. Luton and Shannon have been the busiest two departure points from Europe, respectively still 22% down and 38% up on November 2019.
Chart 2: Transatlantic business jet and scheduled airline departures year to date 2021 vs 2020 vs 2019
November 2021 is set to outstrip any previous November month for business jet travel in Europe, with 29% growth already chalked up this month. The UK has eclipsed France as the busiest business jet market in Europe, with 10,100 operational flight hours departing UK airports month-to-date, compared to 7,600 flight hours from France. On this trend, the UK´s business jet activity will be up 25% on November 2019. Transatlantic demand has helped some airports; Biggin Hill business jet flights to the US are up over 60% compared to November 2019. There are few signs yet of the effect of the winter pandemic wave, with flights in Austria and Netherlands still well above normal, even if slowing the last few days.
Chart 3 – Rolling 7-day average of business jet departures from Austria, November 2021
Rest of world
Regions outside North America and Europe have seen stronger than usual growth in November 2021 so far. Several countries in Africa have strong business jet demand, with the largest shares in Nigeria, Morocco, South Africa and Egypt. Flight activity in Asia and Australasia has tapered off as restrictions are reimposed, especially in China; in the first 3 weeks of November 2021 departures were 40% below November 2019, down 52% vs 2020. Other formerly fast growing markets are now seeing a slowdown; Turkey has 11% fewer business jet departures versus comparable November 2020.
Chart 4 – Business jet departures from Africa in 2021 vs 2020, 2019.
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