European activity flags, but charter demand is buoying US market

17 Sep 2020

Issuing date: September 16th, 2020

According to WINGX weekly Global Market Tracker

Global business aviation movements are trending down by 12% so far in September, an improvement on the YOY declines of 20%, 18% and 16% for June, July and August respectively. Business aviation activity continues to be more resilient than commercial aviation, with commercial sectors down 57% and 60% respectively for the US and Europe this month, a deterioration on some very limited recovery in August. For Bizav, 65% of global activity in September has been US-based, with YOY trends wavering at around 13% below YOY. In the next busiest market, Europe, activity has slid back this month, business aviation sectors 6% behind September 2019, contrast the 3% bounce in August.


Charter demand is buoying the recovery in flight activity in the US; flight hours by branded charter operators are down 12% for the year but have bounced back in the summer and are up 4% so far this month. The regional pattern is varied, with charter operations way behind at historically busiest airports like Teterboro, McCarran Las Vegas and Oakland, but activity out of Van Nuys is 5% ahead YOY, and there were much bigger gains in charters in the last fortnight from Miami-Opa Locka, West Palm Beach and Nantucket. Branded charter operations from the US to Bahamas are up 11% this month. The most popular aircraft are King Air 350, Citation XLS, PC-12 and there is notable growth in charter activity on Citation X and Lear 60 jets.


There are also some signs this month of flight activity emerging from US States as economic activity emerges from lockdowns. From California, business jet and prop activity is down by only 6% this month, having stagnated 15% below normal through most of August. Relatively, the last 2 weeks has seen a strong pick up for New York, now 12% below versus its 30% YOY deficit last month. In contrast, business aviation demand out of neighbouring New Jersey is moribund, still 50% below normal. Texas has shown little improvement so far this month, but Florida has rebounded, with the Labor Day effect generating 17% more activity through the first 2 weeks of September. Colorado continues to attract more business jet travellers, and arrivals into Arizona are up 4% this month.

In Europe, the charter market is also relatively robust this month, with Switzerland, Turkey and Russia all seeing significantly increased YOY sectors operated by branded charter operators. Smaller countries like Serbia and Czech Republic have also had a big jump in charters in September. The overall charter market in Europe is flat in terms of sectors, 2% down in terms of flight hours. The offset comes from steep declines in charter demand in the UK, France, Spain, Greece. Charter flights from Nice and Le Bourget are trailing around 15% YOY. Charter flights within Italy, Germany and Spain are ahead of September 2019. The first fortnight in September saw a 50% YOY jump in charters from Italy to the UK.

Across all mission types, September activity shows continued preference for small and midsize jets versus larger cabin, and this is reflected in flight hours, twice as depressed as flight sectors. Ultra-Long Range jet sectors, for example, are down 18% In September, with flight hours down by 32%. Conversely, Super Light jets are flat in terms of flights, slightly ahead for hours. The strongest performing segment in Europe is Very Light Jet, sectors up by 9% so far in September, mainly due to charter demand. The older Entry Level segment is also flying more than last year, CJ2 picking up strong charter demand. In the midsize class, Challenger 300/350 is busiest, with charter activity within 5% of normal. The older Hawker 800 platform is also doing well in the charter market.


Richard Koe comments: “The European market is showing predictable slowdown as leisure demand winds up, although the light jet charter market has stayed resilient. That may change in the second half of the month as holidays end. The US market is improving on its recent YOY trend, with the boost coming from charter operations. A key question for the industry going in to Q4 is whether the new first-time users of business aviation will stick. The planned cutbacks in regional airline services next month may provide some incentive.”

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Categories: COVID Impact