Growth in business jet flights shifting towards aircraft owners

19 Jan 2022

19/1/2022 – WINGX’s weekly Business Aviation Bulletin.  

Overall Comment
The growth in business aviation activity has moderated in 2022, but is still at a record high, and well ahead of January 2021. Stronger growth may resume as Omicron dissipates, although there are increasing risks in the macroeconomic and geopolitical environment which could easily undermine flight demand in the next few months.

Midway into January 2022, just over 200,000 business aviation sectors flown globally, 25% more than in January 2021, 16% more than in January 2020. The impetus now appears to be coming from aircraft owners, with private and corporate flight departments flying 21% more than January two years ago. Charter and Fractional operators are still flying at record highs, but with growth moderating compared to the end of last year. The recovery in scheduled airline activity has stumbled recently, with network capacity cuts seeing a 33% drop in sectors flown this January compared to two years ago, 27% up on last January. The cargo sector’s consistent growth since the pandemic started appears to have stalled, with similar levels this month compared to both the previous two years’ months of January.

Chart 1 – Busiest cities worldwide for business jet travel in first half January 2022

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North America
The United States is still seeing the strongest growth in demand for business jet travel, with 26% more flights than January last year, up 19% on the January before the pandemic. There is clear evidence of a shift in the recovery toward owned and managed aircraft, with these operators flying respectively 24% and 32% more than two years ago. Florida has been the departure point for more than 10% of all business jets and turboprops this January, with outbound flight hours trending 51% higher than January two years ago. Business aviation departures from Florida to Bahamas are up 45%, to Canada, up 15%, to Dominican Republic, up by 64%. The only US States with relatively less activity than in January 2020 are New Jersey and Hawaii.

There was further evidence of the primacy of leisure demand in the flight activity during the Martin Luther King Jr Day holiday. There were 23,171 business jet sectors flown between 14th and 17th January 2022, compared to 18,410, 20,609, and 20,897 flights during the previous years’ holidays, which marks this year’s activity as a record high point. The 11% increase in comparative business jet traffic this year compared to 3 years ago contrasts to the 16% deficit in Scheduled Airline movements this MLK versus MLK 2019. This year’s MLK, the most popular pairs flown by business jet were Teterboro-Palm Beach, Teterboro-Miami-Opa, and Westchester-Palm Beach. As with all public holidays and weekends since mid-2020, the biggest increase in activity has been between north-east and south-east.

Chart 2 – Business jet departures Martin Luther King Day weekend, 2019-2022

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In Europe, the Omicron wave and associated lockdowns are discernibly slowing flight activity in some countries, with business jet movements in Germany down by 3%, Italy down by 2%. But these are trends relative to January 2020; compared to January 2021, these two countries’ traffic volumes are up respectively by 48% and 63%. Overall, the European region is seeing 13% more activity in January 2022 versus January 2020, with strongest growth in Spain, Russia, Turkey, Sweden. The growth trend for the European region in Q421 compared to Q419 was 24%, so the early January trend has clearly moderated. The trend varies significantly across cabin size, with Midsize and Very Light Jets operations up more than 25%, whereas Heavy and Ultra-Long Jet activity is back to 2019 levels.

Chart 3 – Business jet departures in Europe, moving 7-day average, 2019-2022

Rest of the World
Outside the US and Europe, there have been 20,000 business jet sectors flown in the first half of January, trending up by 7.5% compared to January 2020. The emphasis is on midsize and light jet demand, with longest-range jets flying less than pre-pandemic. Mexico has shown the strongest recovery in the last 6 months, with early January maintaining a growth trend versus 2019. Business jet traffic in Canada has plateaued at about 85% of pre-pandemic levels. Other countries are seeing very strong rebounds compared to two years ago, with sectors in Argentina up by 126%, Bahamas up by 81%, Costa Rica up by 72%. Business jet arrivals into the Maldives are up 95% compared to January 2020, although 40% fewer visits than in January 2021.

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