Market demand tilting downwards as summer winds up

1 Sep 2022

01/09/2022 – WINGX’s weekly Business Aviation Bulletin.  

Business aviation activity is on the slide as the month ends, most evidently in Europe, although this also reflects an unseasonably strong August 2021. For the year-to-date, business jet activity is holding at around 20% above last year, at the point when the market had recovered back to 2019 levels. The big question is whether flight demand can weather the start of Autumn and swiftly deteriorating economic outlook in the next few months.

In the first 29 days of August 2022, business jet and turboprop activity was still a fraction ahead of the first 29 days of August last year, 11% higher than three years ago. For the year-to-date, global business jet flights are up 20% compared to same period last year, and same period 2019. Global scheduled airline activity failed to hit the predicted summer recovery, with August showing 26% fewer sectors than comparable August 2019. Focusing on the busiest global airlines (Southwest Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Ryanair, United Express), flights Jan 1st through August 29th are up 36% compared to last year, 7% below three years ago.

Chart 1 – Global fixed wing flight activity Jan-Aug 2022 vs previous years

North America
For the whole of August, business jet activity in North America is trending up 1% compared to August last year, up 13% compared to 2019. But in the most recent week, week 34 ending 28th August, business jet departures are down 4% compared to the previous week. Overall activity was up by 0.5% compared to the same week in 2021, but that was the offset of still-burgeoning private flight activity versus a slide in fractional and charter flights, trending down by 8% over the last 4 weeks maybe just me, but hard to follow. The Part 135 and 91K market in Florida, the erstwhile hub of pandemic-period activity, was down 1% which is an improvement on -3% 4-week trend, but demand in California is ebbing quite fast, with week 34 down by 11% compared to 7% fall in the last 4 weeks.

For the year so far, the overall region of North America has notched up record flight activity, with almost 2 million business jet sectors flown, up 18% on last year, which by August 2021 had caught up with 2019. The US has a 23% gain on comparable year-to-date 2019, with both Canada and Mexico still trailing pre-pandemic activity. Destinations like Puerto Rico, Costa Rica and US Virgin Islands have at least 30% gains on pre-pandemic Jan-Aug 2019. Most of the Caribbean has seen record flight activity, with exceptions like Cayman, Bermuda, Barbados. Across the whole region, the Challenger 300/350 is the busiest jet this year, 17% busier than pre-covid. The Phenom and Latitude have seen the largest increase in fleet activity. The long-standing GV/500/550 fleet is flying 25% more than in 2019.

Chart 2 – Busiest North America bizjet types, 1st Jan – 29th August 2022 vs previous years

Across Europe bizjet departures so far this month are 6% below August last year, 18% ahead of August three years ago. In week 34, ending on 28th August, flight activity was 7% below the same week in 2019, with the AOC market, covering charter operations, slumping 10% year on year, slightly worse than the 8% downward trend in the last 4 weeks. Most of the leading bizav airports in Europe are seeing a slowdown vs the exceptional August activity last year, with Nice, Olbia and Majorca significantly less busy. There were exceptions, notably Luton with 40% year-on-year increase, which takes it up 24% on comparable 2019, and Biggin Hill, activity up another 14% on August last year, stretching the gains vs 2019 to 68% this month.

Chart 3 – Busiest Bizjet airports in Europe, August 1st – 29th 2022 compared to previous years

Click to expand

Rest of World
Outside North America and Europe, year-on-year growth in business jet activity is 21%, with a 52% increase on August 2019. In the most recent week 34, key markets in Middle East, South America and Asia have growth of around 15% year on year, with demand in Africa ebbing to 2% vs 2021. Business aviation in China continues to flatten due to prolonged covid measures, with Jan-August 2022 records now down by 47% compared to last year, 37% off comparable 2019. The year-to-date growth in business jet flights is still impressive year-to-date in Australia, Brazil, India and Nigeria, where departures from Abuja are down 18% versus 2021 but still up by 3 times versus 2019.

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