The gap between trends in scheduled and non-scheduled aviation continues to be remarkable, with the biggest divergence in the United States
Global fixed wing activity is trending down by 43% so far in 2021, according to WINGX`s weekly Global Market Tracker, with scheduled airline operations down by 50%, cargo operations up by 10% and business aviation traffic down 11%. In February, the airline trends have deteriorated further, despite now being past the anniversary of the initial impact of the pandemic in 2020.
Business aviation demand, which was barely affected on a global level in February 2020, is also a little weaker this month, with 12% fewer sectors flown YOY, a deficit of 21,000 flights. Global trends are very divergent, with demand in Europe still reeling from renewed border restrictions, flights down by 25% YOY, North America relatively resilient at 11% below normal, Asia up in sectors but down in hours, flying in South America now above 2020 levels, Africa within 10%.
Business jet activity in the US is continuing to weather the winter virus wave and associated restrictions, with 118,000 sectors flown so far in February, 93% of the activity in same period in 2020. Florida is the hub, flights up by 11% compared to last year. Business jet flights within Florida are at highest ever levels, 18% up on last year. Other connections with double-digit increases in flight activity are those linking Florida and New York, Georgia, Texas, Colorado. Business jet departures out of Utah are up by over 30% this February. The twin deadweights are Texas and California. In Texas, flight demand withered in the face of the polar freeze; in the second week of February, business aviation activity from and within Texas was down by 52% YOY. San Antonio and Fort Worth airports saw declines of 60% in departures during the freeze.
Across the US, the resilience in demand is clearly slanted towards Charter, with branded charter operators flying slightly more hours this February than last, with sectors down just 3%. Fractional and Aircraft Management operators are flying within 10% of normal, with Private operations, across owner and corporate flight departments, flying 15% less. The hotspots for charter are in Florida, with West Palm Beach airport seeing 40% more charter demand this month than in February 2020. The core demand appears to be Leisure, as reflected in the 20% increase in YOY charter hours during the President’s Day weekend. Then again there appears to be a strong commuter belt emerging on the North East, with flights from Florida to New York up by 58% during the month of February.
Charter activity in Europe is much less healthy, trending down more than 20% in February, similar to where we were back in June 2020. The UK, usually the largest charter market in the region, is ranked behind Germany, and is seeing only half of YOY activity. In contrast, the charter market is busier than ever in Turkey, Russia, and across Eastern Europe from Ukraine to Latvia, Hungary, Poland, also Greece, Croatia, Cyprus. The increasing complexity of running G (UK) Register fleets may be reflected in flight activity out of Malta, more than doubled YOY. In terms of flight hours, both Hawker 700-950 and Challenger 850 are flying more YOY. Across all operators, trends are weakest in Fractional and Aircraft Management companies. Luton is now the 13th busiest airport in Europe, flights down by 68%, whereas Vnukovo is ranked 2nd by activity this month, flights up by 5% YOY.
Rest of the World
Outside Europe and the US, the trend in business aviation activity has been resilient since July last year; activity is down 22% for the full period since January 2020 but has been within 10% of pre-pandemic levels since November last year. Year to date, Rest of World sectors are down by 8%, hours flown by 14%. Including turboprops, Canada and Australia are the busiest countries, respectively growing and declining YOY. For the business jet fleet, Brazli and Bahamas are the next busiest countries this month, with jet activity within Brazil up by 14% YOY. Flights from Mexico to the US are up 20% this month. Domestic business jet activity is also up in China, Nigeria, Colombia, India and Saudi Arabia. Business jet flights out of UAE are up 38% this month, with Al Maktoum airport seeing double the activity versus February 2020.
Managing Director WINGX Richard Koe comments “The gap between trends in scheduled and non-scheduled aviation continues to be remarkable, with the biggest divergence in the United States. Surge in leisure demand during public holidays, and what appears to be recovery in corporate demand on the East Coast, is keeping the US market within 10% of normal, despite the Texas freeze and California lockdown. Europe is miles behind, at least in Western Europe; to the east, private jets are busier than ever in a number of countries.”