Spring seeing quickening US activity, stuttering European trends

6 May 2021

According to WINGX’s weekly Business Aviation Bulletin.  


From the start of April through the first week of May, global fixed wing flight activity is up 219% compared to 2020 but still trailing 35% versus comparable 2019. Within that context, global business aviation traffic is up 200% on last year, down by 8% versus April-May 2019. For the year-to-date, business aviation activity is up 28% compared to 2020, down by 9% compared to 2019, and in contrast to scheduled airline sectors, down 20% and 47% compared to 2020 and 2019 respectively. Global cargo activity is up 14% so far this year versus last year, and 7% ahead of pre-pandemic Jan-May 2019.

Chart 1: Business aviation activity in North America in 2021 vs 2020 vs 2019

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United States

In the US market, just under one million flights so far this year is 8% below same period 2019, only 6% behind April 2019, and almost 30% ahead of the first 4 months of 2020. In the first few days of May, the 7-day rolling average activity has peaked at 9,217 departures, which is the highest since the 12th of July 2019. The charter market continues to be the strongest space, with branded charter operators flying 6% more sectors than in April 2019, and up 3% this year compared to same period 2019, 37% up on the first 4 months of last year. 20% of the charter activity in the US this year has come from Florida, with trends 60% above 2020 levels, more than 20% ahead of 2019.

All regions of the US are now seeing more activity this year compared to last, although trends vary, with the South East and South West ahead of the West coast, and the Mid-West and North-East slowest to recover. Activity out of Texas this year is up 39%, California up 23%, Illinois by 24%, flights out of New Jersey just 8% ahead. New York is 42% up on last year, when activity was at a virtual standstill. Business aviation flights to and from Colorado are up 33% this year, and 1% ahead of comparative 2019, 7% up vs April 2019. Flights from Colorado to Turks and Caicos are up 125% this year. Busiest connections with Colorado are with Texas, Arizona, Florida and California.


Europe continues to see a gradual and stuttering recovery, varying widely from weaker West to stronger South and East. Overall, business aviation flight activity in Europe is now up 10% on same period in 2020, but still 20% below 2019 trends. France is the busiest market this year, up 13%, with domestic traffic up by 40%; but overall, flights from France are still 22% behind 2019. The UK is the 3rd busiest market this year, but one of the few European countries still behind 2020 trends, 31% fewer flights than last year, although only 19% down for domestic routes. Russia and Turkey have the largest growth in traffic this year, more than 60% increase versus last year, mostly domestic traffic. Vnukovo is the 2nd busiest airport in Europe, activity up 50% compared to last year.

Other European airports with strong rebounds this year include Mallorca, Ataturk, Belgrade, Athens, Ibiza, Larnaca, Cannes, Riga. Airports still behind 2020 trends include Le Bourget and Geneva, modestly behind. The London airports have the biggest deficit: Farnborough activity is 35% behind last year, Luton airport has a 48% deficit versus 2020, Biggin Hill 28% behind. Very Light Jets have the strongest recovery this year, activity up by 36%, with turboprops also flying much more, hours up 27%. Heavy and Ultra-Long range jets are flying 7% more than in the first 4 months of last year. The Embraer Legacy is the busiest heavy jet in Europe, sectors up 13% this year, 1% up compared to same period in 2019.

Chart 2: Citation Mustang activity in Europe in 2021 vs 2020 vs 2019

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Rest of World

Outside Europe and the US, business aviation trends are up 26% so far this year compared to 2020 with Canada the only top market still to surpass last year’s activity. Business aviation activity has doubled this year compared to last year in China, Nigeria, Brazil, almost all in domestic activity. Flight activity in India is still 60% up this year on last year, despite the surging pandemic. There has been as strong rebound in the Bahamas, arrivals into Nassau up by 50%. Turks and Caicos has been consistently popular since last winter, with this year’s private jet movements. Al Maktoum has seen activity triple this year compared to last year and double the activity of pre-pandemic 2019 period.

Chart 3: Business jet departures from Al Maktoum since 2019

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Categories: COVID Recovery


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