Stagnation in Europe, no Carnival in Brazil, but North America back to business

4 Mar 2021

Issuing date: March 4th, 2021

According to WINGX`s weekly Global Market Tracker 

Overall Comment:
The US is starting to see an accelerated recovery from the winter pandemic, with both scheduled and business aviation activity opening up, and charter activity setting some new records, especially in Florida. Different story in Europe, with a long road to run, and international leisure trips all-but-illegal. This slowdown is very clear in Western Europe, with contrasting openness to the East, business jets being used more than ever within Russia and Turkey.

Through the first two months of this year, global fixed wing activity is down by 43%, with scheduled airlines bearing most of the burden, activity down by 52% compared to the start of 2020. Business aviation activity has flagged in February, tending towards 85% of normal levels. Cargo operations have continued to out-pace pre-pandemic levels by around 10%. Geographically, North America is seeing a much stronger recovery in both scheduled and non-scheduled activity, with total operations down by 35%, the US now at 30% decline, and within 10% of business aviation activity back in Jan-Feb 2020. The European area is suffering the heaviest declines in airline activity, down over 70% YOY, with business aviation relatively more robust but still down by a quarter compared to Jan-Feb 2020. Nigeria and China continue to see strong growth in domestic use of business jets. Busiest connections in China are between Hainan, Beijing and Shenzhen, and in Nigeria, Abuja and Lagos. Brazil has growth this year, internationally with Angola, and domestically, strong growth between Porto Seguro and Congonhas. However the cancellation of this year’s Carnival saw a sharp drop in mid-month traffic compared to last year.

Chart 1: Global flight activity trends in 2021: Scheduled, Business, Cargo, Other

Click to expand

North America and the Super Bowl:
With a large domestic market and lighter travel restrictions than in Europe, the US is seeing solid trends in business aviation traffic, with 445,000 sectors flown this year, only 7% fewer YOY. The charter market is particularly strong, with only 1% fewer YOY departures, and an increase of 4% in flight hours. Private flight activity, encompassing owner and corporate flight departments, is still weak, these flying 13% below normal. Fractional operations seem to have recovered to within 5% of normal and Aircraft Management operators are flat YOY. The charter market is even slightly stronger for just the jet fleet, with 1% gain in sectors so far this year, mainly in Very Light Jets, up by 8% overall and up by 13% in charter activity compared to last year.

Geographically, the US hub for business jet movements continues to be Florida, with 16% growth in activity this year, more than 20% growth in charter departures. February has continued to be strong, with 29,000 flights operated, 15% more than in Feb-20. California is the second busiest US State this year for business jet traffic, with travel restrictions frustrating recovery, flight sectors down 11%. Demand in Texas took a nose-dive during the freeze, flights trending 7% down for the month, but bouncing back in the last week. Colorado, the perennial powerhouse of business jet demand during the pandemic, added 14% in flight activity in February. Arizona also continues to attract more business jet demand than ever, 5% up on last year. New Jersey looks to be the last State to recover, with flights still lagging 40%. In contrast, New York is flat, with strong growth back and forth with Florida.

Europe’s long road to recovery in business in business jet usage has been marred by prolonged lockdown, complicating any cross-border travel, and as the economy slides into a double-dip recession the prospects look bleaker for at least H121. The last week has seen a 34% dip in YOY business jet activity, with Government activity one of the few resilient sectors. Regionally, the UK is stagnating almost 2/3 lower than last year. The core Eurozone countries have all seen business jet movements drop at least a third in the second half of February compared to same period last year. As before, demand continues to be stronger than ever for flights in Russia and Turkey, mainly domestic activity. There is a clear contrast between Western and Eastern Europe, with the latter seeing growth in business jet activity in Ukraine, Romania, Latvia, Croatia, Albania.

Chart 2 – Growth of business and scheduled aviation select countries Jan-Feb 2021

Click to expand

Chart 3: Business vs Scheduled pair deterioration, Moscow, Jan-Feb 2021

Click to expand
Categories: COVID Recovery


The WINGX Daily TRACKER provides you with a daily-updated dashboard on all business aviation flights operated globally.