Omicron hits Europe but Thanksgiving lifts US activity to record highs
02/12/2021 – WINGX’s weekly Business Aviation Bulletin.
All eyes are on the Omicron variant now and its emerging threat to public health, with the attendant reimposition of travel restrictions. Lockdowns are clearly already having an effect in some countries, notably China and Australia throughout November, and Austria in the last week. But the overall trend for November 2021 was record-breaking growth on pre-pandemic November business jet utilization. The week running up to Thanksgiving saw US business jet activity back to up to the all-time peaks in July. In Europe, the UK saw a record-breaking jump on business jet flights in November 2021.
November 2021 was comfortably the busiest November on record for global business jet activity, with 447,000 sectors operated, 15% busier than November 2019, 43% busier than November 2020. The monthly activity was only 30,000 sectors shy of October’s activity, which was the busiest month on record. The last week of November was up 23% versus the last week of November 2019, showing no impact at the aggregate level from the Omicron variant. By contrast, scheduled passenger traffic was down by 31% in November versus two years ago. Eleven months into 2021, business jet activity is up by 6% compared to 2019, +4% if turboprops are included. Scheduled aviation activity has a 38% deficit in sectors flown year to date. Cargo operators are flying 7% more this year than two years ago.
Chart 1 – Business aviation sectors flown vs Scheduled and Cargo activity, 2019-2021
Business jet activity in the United States was lifted by an exceptionally busy run-up to the Thanksgiving Holidays, with 20% increase during the holiday period versus 2019, 43% more flights than 2020. Scheduled airline activity in the US marked its busiest day since the pandemic on 28th November, with overall movements down only 12% compared to November 2019, up 39% on last year’s Thanksgiving period. Notably, 23% of all fixed wing flights in the US during Thanksgiving were operated by business jets and turboprops. The busiest business aviation airport pair was McCarran Intl to Van Nuys, with 33% more activity than pre-pandemic Thanksgiving 2019. McCarran to Los Angeles business aviation traffic was up by 44% vs Thanksgiving 2019. Teterboro and Westchester flights to West Palm Beach were at least twice as busy as in November 2019.
Chart 2: Busiest US airport pairs for business jets in week running up to Thanksgiving 2021
The busiest US State for November was Florida, out-flying California which had retaken top spot since the Summer. Compared to November 2019, Florida had 10,405 additional business jet departures. Almost all US States saw higher activity than two years ago November, with New Jersey the weakest growth, flights up by 2%. The busiest business jet type flying in November was the Challenger 350, with 670 active tails flying 21% more sectors than November 2019, up by 46% compared to November 2020. The Phenom 300 flew 55% more sectors than November 2019. Cirrus Personal Jet activity was up by 128%. Global 6500 sectors were 18% up on November 2019, up 13% in flight hours. NetJets and Flexjet activity was up more than 30% on November 2019, Wheels Up turboprop fleet was 13% busier than two years ago, Solairus fleet was 49% busier than two years ago.
Chart 3 – 7-Day rolling daily departures in the US from Jan-19 through Nov-21
European business aviation activity was up 25% in November 2021 compared to November 2019, up 28% in terms of hours flown. Business jet activity for leading operators like NetJets and Vista Jet was up above 20% versus November 2019, GlobeAir’s Very Light Jet fleet flying 30% more than usual, Air Hamburg fleet’s activity more than 50% relative to November 2019. The UK and France were comfortably the busiest markets in November, departures up more than 20% vs 2 years ago. At an aggregate level, there is little sign of slowdown in the last week since the arrival of the Omicron variant; flights are up 24% in the last 7 days. But in countries re-imposing restrictions, slowdown is more evident; business jet departures out of Austria are down by 12% in the last 7 days compared to November 2019. Scheduled airline activity in Austria is down 47% in the last week, vs same week 2019.
Rest of world
Outside the US and the EU, business jet activity was up by 4% compared to November 2019. The busiest business jet market was Canada, which still has a large deficit versus November 2019, sectors down 20%, although better than Mexico, where business jet activity was 28% behind November two years ago. Brazil and Bahamas are both busier than pre-pandemic, with Turkey also ahead of November 2019 but behind November 2020. Business jet flight hours were down versus 2019 in Australia and Saudi Arabia in November 2019. In China, renewed virus restrictions have seen business jet flight hours plunge 55% versus November 2019. Morocco and Japan were some distance from regaining 2019 activity in November. Business jet activity out of the UAE was up by 83% vs November 2019 and up 74% year to date.
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