Coronavirus impact on worldwide business aviation activity

Light Jet charters are still buoying the market

Issuing date: November 18th, 2020

According to WINGX weekly Global Market Tracker

Just under 150,000 business aviation flights were operated in the first half of November, 20% fewer than in the comparable period of November 2019. Having sustained a recovery of 85% of normal activity since the summer, demand for flights has subsided in the face of renewed virus concerns and travel restrictions. The rolling 7-day average activity is trending 16% under the volumes in February this year, and now 12% below the post-March high point in the recovery, but at 11,515 flights per day, way above the 3,700 trough in demand in mid-April. Also, business aviation activity since the Spring has seen a 30% drop compared to 2019, substantial, but relatively small compared to the declines of over 60% activity in global scheduled aviation activity.

North America, which is seeing 75% of global business aviation flights this month, is trending down by 23%, clearly a relapse on 16% negative trends in October. The US market is doing slightly better, behind by 22% YOY, with activity steady since the big post-election dip at the start of this month. Florida continues to be the hub for flights, also relatively the most resilient US State, with 13K departures so far this month, trending down by 9% YOY. Flight activity in Texas is down 20% in November, but improving since the start of the month and well above the trough this summer. California is doing better, 14% below YOY trend. Other US States are generally seeing declines of 20% this month, with Colorado and Arkansas two exceptions with close to normal flight activity.

The US Charter market continues to provide ballast to flight volumes, with activity showing 83% of normal demand. Declines are still very severe at main hubs like Teterboro, McCarran and Oakland airports, but Van Nuys is only 5% off, and a number of airports in Florida saw strong growth, both at Fort Lauderdale, also at Miama-Opa Locka and from Naples. Charter flights from Scottsdale Arizona were up by over 50% YOY. The busiest airport pairs for charter connections with Scottsdale this month have been McCarran, Van Nuys, John Wayne, San Diego, Tucson and Salt Lake City. Two thirds of all charter flights have been under 2-hour sectors. Light and midsize jets such as the Eclipse Jet, Hawker Premier and Citation X have been very busy, but so too some heavier jets, notably Challenger 850 and Challenger 600 aircraft.

European business jet and prop activity is trending down 21% so far this month, a far cry from the near-normal in August and the mild declines in September and October. Indeed, the trending 7-day average activity has fallen sharply from the start of this month, from 1500 flights a day to 1200 daily take-offs in the last week. The UK is at the back, flights down by 41% compared to November last year, with Italy and Belgium almost as badly affected. As virus concerns increase, flight activity in Germany has collapsed 32%. Spain, Norway, and Sweden are less affected. Russia, Ukraine, Greece and Turkey have seen an increase in YOY traffic. The country flows generating this growth have been mainly domestic, also connections are well up between Russia and UAE, Latvia, Albania and Cyprus.

The Charter market in Europe is relatively resilient, 16% off in terms of sectors flown, only 10% down in terms of flight hours. There has been substantial growth in Charter activity between Germany, UK, Spain, and Switzerland, although the busiest domestic charter market, the UK, is still down 39% YOY. The Citation Mustang is the 2nd busiest aircraft type flying Charters, with hours up by 5% compared to November last year. The Legacy 600 is also flying slightly more than last year. The Hawker Beechjet/Nextant and Hawker 700-900 platforms are both flying more YOY. Four of the five busiest airports for Charter activity this month are showing YOY increases: Vnukovo, Biggin Hill, Zurich and Nice. Charters from Farnborough are down by 25%.

Outside Europe and the United States, the Asia-Pac region is seeing most stability, with the turboprop market back to normal levels in Australia. Business jet activity across all rest of world regions is down by 25% this month, with flight hours down 40% or more in Saudi Arabia, Mexico and Canada, but only 16% below in Brazil, and actually increasing YOY in Nigeria, Indonesia and UAE. In China, business jet sectors are well up but hours are still trailing YOY, with much fewer long sectors. Only 8% of all business jet flights in these regions were Charters, these declining by 20% so far in November. The busiest business jet this month is the Challenger 600, sectors down by 14% YOY.

Richard Koe comments “Under sustained pressure from lockdowns and WFH policy, business aviation activity is ebbing, but not buckling, with pockets of growth and a durable demand for charter flights, especially on light jets. It may be that as the leisure market fades into the early winter, some of the corporate demand is starting to come back.”

About WINGX

WINGX is a data analytics and consulting company which provides actionable market intelligence to the global aviation industry. WINGX services include: Market Insight Reports, Online Dashboards, Customised Research, Strategic Consulting, Market Forecasts and Surveys. WINGX customers include aircraft operators, airframe, engine and avionics OEMs, airlines, maintenance providers, airports, fixed based operators, Satcom providers, fuel providers, legal advisors, leasing companies, banks, regulators, investors and private jet users.


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