Recovery trends stabilising at around 85% of usual

7 Oct 2020

Issuing date: October 7th, 2020

According to WINGX weekly Global Market Tracker

The recovery in business jet traffic at this point in Autumn 2020 appears to be hitting a ceiling of around 85% of comparable 2019 activity. That equates to a deficit of about 50,000 fewer business jet sectors since the start of September. Including turboprops, just over 550,000 hours have been operated in that period, 18% fewer YOY. Around 80% of the active fleet has been operational. Business aviation continues to be more resilient than scheduled airlines, for which activity is dropping below 50% of normal, with more slowdown to come as various carriers announce cutbacks in activity. Cargo operations are trending globally at around 95% of comparable 2019 activity.

The two key business jet markets in terms of activity, North America and Europe, generating 90% of all sectors in the last 6 weeks, are both trending 20% under in terms of flight hours. Add in turboprops and Europe is doing rather better, flights down by 11% versus 19% decline in North America. Business jet activity is above 90% of normal for Asia, although flight hours are down 28%, which underlines the loss of inter-regional connections. Flight hours are also trending down a little in South America and Oceania, and by almost 20% in Africa, but sectors are actually up YOY in all 3 regions in the last 4 weeks.

Within the United States, flight activity is increasing, as it usually does coming into October, with 7 day rolling trends reaching their highest point since mid-March, just over 7,900 sectors flown daily in the first week of this month – that compares with barely 2,500 daily sectors during the April low point. And there are some US States which have increased flight activity since August; flights out of Colorado and Florida up by more than 5% vs last year, and activity out of Arizona and South Carolina back to normal. But demand in the big markets, Texas, California, New York, appears to be gummed up between 15% and 20% below normal. Flight activity in New Jersey continues to stagnate at 50% below normal.

Across the US, demand is favouring smaller jets, with Very Light and Light Jet segments at 90% of normal. Super-Mid and Midsize jets are 15% under, but Turboprop activity is wilting, now 20% behind. Ultra-Long Range sectors are down 23%, and ULR flight hours down by 36%. Bizliner flight hours are down by 60% compared to last year. There is variation within segments, with resilient single-digit declines for Phenom 300, Nextant, Citation Ultra, CJ4, and PC-12 activity. Challenger 600 and Gulfstream V/550 hours are down more than 30%. Across the whole fleet, Charter demand is most buoyant, trending 11% below since August, and just 5% down in hours, compared to private and corporate flight departments, whose activity is almost 25% below normal.

In Europe, the overall recovery in terms of all business jet and prop activity is healthier than in the United States, at 11% below normal since August, but trends are clearly weakening in the last 6 weeks, a daily average of 2,339 sectors at the end of August falling to 1,782 in the first week of October. The biggest deterioration is in France, which was up YOY In August, but since then has seen activity trend down by almost 30%. A much weaker recovery in the UK has relapsed to 30% below normal. And Spain, where activity was briefly back up in early July, is also now seeing activity at just 70% of normal. Austria has somehow maintained YOY growth since June, and since mid-summer both Turkey and Russia have actually seen more sectors than usual.

Domestic travel demand is much stronger than international trips in Europe, for obvious reasons. Germany is the stalwart in this regard, with traffic holding up at slightly higher than YOY levels since August. Flights within Italy and Sweden are also up. Most of the growth in business jet traffic in Russia and Turkey is on domestic itineraries. The busiest international flow is UK-Italy, this activity is higher than in comparable 2019. Olbia shows up here, with departures up by 45% YOY. Flights between the UK and France are at half normal volumes, and Le Bourget departures are down more than 30%. Other leading airports are seeing similarly negative trends – Luton, Farnborough, Nice, Geneva. Biggin Hill, Munich and Vienna are outliers, with traffic volume close to normal for this time of year.

Richard Koe comments “It’s encouraging that the recovery has not significantly relapsed as we move from Summer to Autumn, despite much less support from leisure travellers. The US market is behind the European curve on the pandemic, with opening-up in Florida now releasing pent-up demand, whereas the north-east region is still restricted and activity well below normal. European activity shows more signs of wilting now we´re out of the summer season, but as in the US, the charter market is continuing to be relatively resilient.”

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Categories: COVID Impact