Western Europe lagging, record US charter activity

22 Apr 2021

According to WINGX’s weekly Business Aviation Bulletin.  

Overall Comment

In contrast to scheduled airlines, business aviation activity is now moving well ahead of 2020 and closing within 10% of pre-pandemic levels. Demand for business jet charter, at least in the predominant US market, is already ahead of 2019 and is on target for a record-breaking year, especially
if lockdown-lifting releases pent-up demand for corporate travel.


Global fixed wing flight activity is more than three times what it was last April, three weeks into the month. Year to date, scheduled airline sectors are still trailing by 29% in 2021 versus 2020, but business aviation aircraft are already 18% busier. Cargo operations continue to out-perform, with global flight hours up more than 10% on 2020. Cargo activity is also up on 2019 trends, whereas business aviation trends are still down by 8% compared to April 2019 and 10% off year-to-date 2019. The regional
business aviation markets outside the US and Europe are closest to pre-pandemic trends, just 4% behind year-to-date 2019. The US market is 5% behind 2019 so far this year, whereas Europe is still 1% below 2019 levels.

Chart 1: Global business aviation traffic by Operator Type 2021 vs 2020 vs 2019

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United States

As vaccination programs move swiftly ahead, and increasing numbers of US States lift restrictions, the US is fast closing the shortfall on pre-pandemic flight activity. Trending daily activity has slightly fallen off highs in late March, with latest reference at 8,301 flights, which compares to the 2020 low point of 2,399 daily flights, and peak activity in April 2019 of 9,691 daily flights. Fractional, Branded Charter and Aircraft Management companies are all flying at least 30% more this year so far compared to last year.
Private and corporate flight departments are making up lost ground more slowly. More than 15% of all US flight operations are out of Florida this year, with business jet and prop sectors up by 46% in 2021 compared to 2020, and up 18% on 2019.

Texas is now also seeing a big rebound, flight activity up by 29% through April 2021 versus 2020, still 10% behind 2019. Dallas Love Field, San Antonio and Austin are up 40% in business aviation operations
this year compared to last year. Their busiest pairs are to and from the coastline in California and the Gulf of Mexico. Business jet demand from California is 12% up this year, well behind pre-pandemic levels. Flight activity out of New Jersey is still trailing 2020, whereas New York is up 31% in 2021. Business aviation connections between New York and Florida are up 73% this year. Across the country, the largest cabin aircraft are still relatively idle, with ultra-long-range jets still flying 5% less than last year. Midsize jet activity is up 35% year-to-date.


Europe is starting to see the effect of stop-start vaccination programs and hesitant reopening. Daily business aviation flight activity has picked up 30% compared to the trough during the winter wave, but Western Europe is still well behind pre-pandemic levels, with the UK’s activity still 42% down on the first three and a half months of 2020, 54% on equivalent 2019. Switzerland´s business jet connections are also well down, operators feeling the effects of a cancelled ski season. Flight activity in Germany is
2% up year-to-date versus 2020, whereas Italy is 27% up, reflecting their relative declines in the early stages of the pandemic last year; both countries are trailing 25% behind comparable activity in 2019.

Chart 2: UK G-Register AOC flights from UK to EU27

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Rest of World

In the wider European area, other countries are seeing substantially more business aviation activity this year than last. Flights out of Poland are up 17%, from Russia, growth of 35%, and flights from Turkey are up by two thirds. Whilst Le Bourget has seen 4,400 flights this year, 10% behind 2020,
Vnukovo is close behind with 3,800 take-offs, up 34% on 2020. Ataturk is the 7th busiest airport in Europe this year, activity up 65%. Flights from Malta are up more than 70% this month. Further afield, business jet flights from Morocco are still down 1% this year, 18% off for flight hours. Brazil is well
ahead, with 42% more business jet sectors versus 2020. Activity out of the UAE has doubled this year. Business jet connections to and from the Maldives are up 360% in 2021 compared to 2020.

Chart 3: Business and Scheduled aviation activity out of Malta in YTD-21 vs YTD-20

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Categories: COVID Recovery


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