Longer holidays boosting leisure demand for business jets

14 Jan 2021

Issuing date: January 13th, 2020

According to WINGX weekly Global Market Tracker

A surge in business aviation traffic just after New Year, as travellers came home from Christmas holidays, has bolstered flight activity in the first 2 weeks of 2021. Compared to the same fortnight in 2019, global business aviation demand is down by just 1%, although trends have slowed in the second week of January. Scheduled passenger flights over the same period are down by 45%. Cargo operations are trending up by 5% so far this year, compared to 2020. This month kicks off a long recovery road for the aviation sector, following a 45% fall in global fixed wing activity in 2020, commercial airlines operating at under half 2019 levels, business aviation more resilient, 20% below 2019.

The Christmas and New Year holiday period demonstrated the resilience of business aviation in responding to leisure demand. Mid December saw a significant pick-up in flight activity, peaking on 22nd-24% December, with each day seeing at least 10% increase vs the same Christmas Day run-up in 2019. Return trips after New Year were concentrated around the 1st and 2nd January, both days seeing 30% more activity than same dates last year. For every region apart from Europe and Africa, there was an increase in business jet usage from mid-December through the first week of January. Charter and Aircraft Management companies flew more, with private flight department travel down only 4%.

The US market provided the most significant boost to business aviation usage over the last 4 weeks. Florida was the epicentre, with jet and prop departures up by 23% on pre pandemic levels. By far the busiest connection is between Florida and New Jersey; even since January 3rd, well since the holidays, flights are up 41%. New Jersey activity is still trailing almost 20%, and business aviation is ailing in California, 15% below normal. During the holiday period, charter activity was particularly strong, flights up across the country by 9%. Apart from the main airports in Florida, there were spikes in business jet  activity from White Plains, Westchester, Scottsdale, Centennial and Salt Lake airports. Flights between Miami-Opa Locka Executive and Teterboro are up 100% since mid-December.

Europe has weathered a much slower period of business aviation activity, particularly since the holidays ended. Even during the holidays, flight activity stagnated in major markets such as UK, France, Germany, Italy, with almost no ski traffic. There was strong growth in business jet traffic from and within Russia and Turkey. Destinations in Greece, Latvia, Serbia, Cyprus and Malta saw more business jet traffic during the holiday period than in previous years. Flights from Germany to Spain were up by 50% for the two days before and after New Year. Arrivals into Nice were up by over 50%, arrivals into Luton down more than 50%. Since the New Year, activity has slumped, down by 21%. The UK is worst off, business aviation flights off by 48%, though still more resilient than airline traffic, down 78% YOY.

Outside Europe, some countries have sustained growth in flight activity even since the holidays, the US slightly up, and demand tracking above the same period in 2020 for Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, Bahamas, China. Business jet traffic to and from the Maldives is up almost three times in the last week, compared to January 2020, a sign that holidays are getting extended. The United Arab Emirates is also seeing more business jet visitors than ever, with movements at Dubai’s Al Maktoum up by 100% in the last week. Smaller jets continue to be most in demand, flying 40% of all departures since the start of year, and operating more hours than January last year. Midsize jets are also up on last year. All the slowdown is coming from the large jets; Global Express activity is down 30% year on year.

Richard Koe comments “The surge in business aviation activity peaked just before Christmas and just after New Year, but longer holidays also appear to be extending robust leisure demand into the first two weeks of January. The exception is Europe, where harsh lockdowns have suppressed activity, with a few bright spots during the holidays tapering off sharply in the last two weeks. Looking ahead, we would expect the market to see a mid-winter relapse, but still more resilient than commercial airlines.”

Categories: COVID Impact