July delivers biggest ever summer surge in business jet activity
29/07/2021 – WINGX’s weekly Business Aviation Bulletin.
All Insights drawn via WINGX Monthly Insight Dashboard
The predicted upswing in business aviation activity this summer has exceeded expectations, and apparently unaffected by recent concerns around delta variants. In North America and Europe the rebound is clearly linked to leisure demand. Elsewhere, despite much lower vaccination levels, there is strong growth in activity, which may reflect replacement of scheduled service connectivity.
Business jet and turboprop activity has rebounded in July, up 43% on July 2020 and climbing 11% beyond the pre-pandemic volumes back in July 2019. Commercial airline activity is also clearly on the comeback, with 60% more flights this versus last July, but still 33% behind July 2019 activity. Global cargo activity has plateaued, within 1% of pre-pandemic activity. Year-to-date, more than 2.5 million business aviation sectors have been operated, within 3% of the same period´s activity in 2019, and relative to a 43% deficit in scheduled airline activity. Looking just at business jet platforms, flights are up 0.2% in the first 7 months of 2021 compared to 2019.
Chart 1: Global Business Aviation, Scheduled, Cargo flight activity in 2021 YTD
North America has seen more than 70% of the global activity of business jet flights this year and is trending up by 50% compared to last year, up 1% versus 2019. Airline activity in the region is still down by 40% so far this year compared to 2019. The US is the powerhouse, with 91% of the activity and a 5% increase in sectors versus 2019, year to date. Flight hours are up 7% compared to same period 2019, although Jet A1 volume is up only 2%. Business jet activity in Canada and Mexico still has a big deficit, but across the Caribbean region several countries have seen in excess of 20% more flying this year than pre-pandemic. July has seen the biggest surge in the US recovery this year, with flights up 30% versus first 26 days of July 2019, the busiest July so far in the last 10 years.
The US Charter market shows no signs of slowing down, with branded charter operators flying close to 50,000 sectors this month, up 35% on comparable July 2019. Fractional activity is also at record levels, 23% up vs July 2019. Even Private flights, including both individual and corporate flight departments, are up 20% compared to two years ago. The pattern of activity across different cabin types shows a marked shift towards longer-range heavier jets; whereas ultra-long range and heavy jets were notably idle in 2020, this month these fleets have been 30% busier than pre-pandemic. There is also a slight regional shift, with California promoted back to busiest State, demoting Florida for the first time since the pandemic. All States, even the erstwhile laggards like New Jersey, have seen more business jet activity in July 2021 than in July 2019.
Chart 2: Business jet sectors flown in North America region through July 26th 2021 vs 2019
The European region has seen its predicted bounce-back in business jet and prop activity this month. Sectors are up 12% this month compared to July 2019. Demand is primarily for Small and Midsize aircraft, with Heavy and Ultra-Long Range activity down by 5% versus July 2019. Very Light Jet activity continues to break records, with sectors up 26% vs July two years ago. Mallorca stands out as the fastest growing hub for Very Light Jets, with arrivals up by 125%. Overall, the summer surge in Europe is apparent everywhere except the UK and Ireland, where there are still double-digit declines in activity compared to July 2019. Some countries have relatively modest gains in July – France, Norway, Sweden, Netherlands – whilst others are far ahead of July 2019 – Spain, Greece, Croatia.
Chart 3: Business aviation & Scheduled connections with Mallorca, July 2021 vs July 2019
On the European periphery, Russia and Turkey continue to see much higher levels of activity compared to pre-pandemic. In Russia, the biggest hub is Vnukovo, ranked 5th busiest in Europe this month, and with 31% more flights than in July 2019. Pulkovo St Petersburg and Sheremetyevo are next busiest, slightly behind 2019 trends. Flights from Sochi are up 56% this month compared to July 2019, although trailing July 2020. Further afield, Brazil, India, UAE is amongst the countries with strong growth in business jet movements. Australia has more activity this year than 2019 but Melbourne, Sydney and Perth airports have seen a drop off this month as lockdowns were renewed. The busiest business jet hubs outside North America and Europe this month are in Riyadh, Sao Paolo, Tel Aviv and Lagos.
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