Russian business aviation wilting as invasion leads to sanctions

3 Mar 2022

03/3/2022 – WINGX’s weekly Business Aviation Bulletin.  

Overall Comment
For business aviation, the Ukraine crisis is having a direct effect on a relatively small share of overall flight activity, but the proliferation of sanctions will significantly complicate the whole business aviation market, especially in Europe, across the field from flight operations to charter brokerage, aircraft financing, management and maintenance.

Ukraine Crisis
The global headlines are focused on Russia´s invasion of Ukraine, with significant consequences emerging for the global aviation industry. In terms of flight activity, Russia, Belarus and Ukraine are seeing precipitous drops in all flight activity over the last few days. In business jet activity, Charter and Aircraft Management operators are seeing the largest activity declines in the region, with Private Flight Departments so far more resilient. Compared the same week in 2019, business aviation activity in Russia is now trending down by 20%. Scheduled airline and cargo traffic out of Russia, Belarus and Ukraine is down by 35% and 23% respectively, compared to same period 2019.

Chart 1 – Rolling 7-day average business aviation departures from Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, Feb 2022

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The size of the Russian aviation industry in the global context is small in some respects – only 0.5% of global business jet deliveries, 0.7% of the active fleet, under 100 aircraft on the Register – but Europe has relatively high exposure to business jets regularly operating out of Russia, an estimated 12% of all jets based in Europe in 2021. Last year, 7% of all business jet sectors operated in Europe inter-connected with Russia or Ukraine, 12% of Gulfstream jet movements in Europe, 28% of Embraer Legacy 600 sectors. 12% of globally active ultra-long-range jets had at least one movement in Russia during 2021. Over the last two days, business jet connections between Russia and the Middle East have grown much faster than European connections. This is reflected in the last few days´ departures from Moscow airports.

Chart 2 – Business aviation vs scheduled aviation departures from Moscow 24th Feb – 28th Feb 2022

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Rest of World
The global trend in business jet activity does not yet register any impact from the Ukraine crisis; the 2022 trend, since the start of the year, indicates a 13% increase over comparable 2019, with scheduled airline sectors still lagging by 31%, despite a 38% bounce so far this year.  

Chart 3: Global fixed wing activity Jan-Mar 2022 vs 2021 & 2020

The North American market is much less exposed than Europe to direct flight connections with Russia, although overflight restrictions are now in force, and the leading US suppliers of business aviation services will be severely constrained in supporting Russian aviation concerns since widespread sanctions were implemented this week. Within the US, the pattern of business jet demand is familiar, with Florida the primary hub, California and Texas back above 2019 levels, and the North-East slower to recover; New Jersey, and Teterboro in particular, are still behind 2019 activity volumes. Overall, the biggest rebound this year in the US market has been in the ultra-long-range jets, sectors 24% above pre-pandemic records. Private flight departments are belatedly recovering. 

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