Domestic traffic rebounding fast, international connections lagging
According to WINGX’s weekly Business Aviation Bulletin.
Business aviation is up by a third this year, closing the gap with 2019 trends, recovery still well ahead of scheduled activity, for which activity is now finally ahead of 2020 but still languishing 40% behind pre-pandemic trends. As we approach the summer and the international travel restrictions ease, business aviation demand is likely to pick up the pace before the airlines do, responding to pent-up leisure demand and the return of high-end corporate travellers.
The first half of May has seen the biggest rebound yet in terms of recovering global aviation activity. Scheduled traffic has started to recover more quickly, with flights in May 2021 up almost three times compared to May 2020. Business aviation flights are up 121% so far this month, with growth in cargo traffic still building off its strong trend last year, up 15%. Year-to-date business aviation traffic is 34% higher than last year, markedly in contrast to airline traffic, still down by 19%. Combining scheduled, cargo and business jet flight activity, Asia is the only region now ahead of 2020 trends. For business jets only, all regions are busier than last year, with North America contributing 75% of flights, trends up by 31% so far this year versus 2020.
Chart 1: Business aviation domestic and international connections in May YTD 2021 vs YTD 2020
The United States is adding by far the most to the global business aviation recovery. Business jet and turboprop traffic is up 196% in the last month, 32% in the year so far. Compared to same periods in 2019, the US market is 8% behind this year, only 5% behind since the start of April. Florida is still the hub, with its early opening-up propelling it to new records in activity; compared to 2019, flights are up 18% so far this year, up 25% since the start of April. The hottest routes are out of Miama-Opa Locka, Palm Beach International, Fort Lauderdale, with much of the connections to the North East, with Teterboro’s activity coming back. Texas has seen a sustained rebound since it exited the Big Freeze at the end of February, with activity up 36% this year compared to last, down 9% versus 2019.
International flights from the US to destinations outside North America are still well behind this year, 36% fewer departures than same period last year, 55% less traffic than in 2019. However, the last few weeks have seen a big rebound, with flights up 57% Year on Year since the start of April. The most popular destinations are South America – Colombia, Brazil, Ecuador. Flight to the UK this year are still 50% below last year. The Caribbean has seen an uptick in traffic, with most popular destinations for business jet flights including Turks and Caicos, Bahamas, Dominican Republic, US Virgin Islands. Travel to the Cayman Islands and Sint Maarten is still restricted, with arrivals well below last year’s traffic.
In Europe, business jet and prop activity is pulling ahead of comparative 2020 trends, flights up 14%, but still 19% behind 2019 trends, with a smaller 14% gap in the last 6 weeks indicating a gradual recovery. There continues to be regional disparity, with Western Europe slowest to recover. Compared to same period in 2019, flight activity from both France and Germany this year is lagging at least 20%, with business aviation flights from the UK 54% below normal levels. The UK has at least seen a doubling of activity since the start of April this year versus last, with the biggest Year-on-Year bounces at Farnborough, Jersey and Oxford. As some restrictions lift, international flights make up just over half this month’s activity, with France the most popular destination.
Chart 2: Business Aviation flight activity by Operator Type since 2019
Rest of World
The significant lag in the UK’s recovery so far this year stands in contrast to countries at the periphery of Europe, with business jet flights from Russia and Turkey up by two thirds so far this year. Indeed, business jet activity in Russia is now trending 22% ahead of comparable 2019. 40% of the flights from Russia have been domestic. Of the international flights, the most popular destination has been the Middle East, with YOY connections up almost 500%. Whilst flights to France, UK, Austria are still well behind 2020, flights to Latvia, Turkey and Cyprus are up by two or three times. Outside Europe and the US, Brazil, Australia, UAE, China, and India are seeing higher levels of business jet activity than in 2019. Mexico is ahead of 2020, still behind 2019, and Canada is still lagging 2020 trends through May.
Chart 3: Business jet activity in the Caribbean since 2019
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