Business aviation activity has flagged in February, tending towards 85% of normal levels
According to WINGX`s weekly Global Market Tracker, 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.
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.
Rest of the World
Outside Europe and the US, the strongest business jet market is Mexico, which has seen a relatively strong recovery, flights down by 15% in February. Domestic activity is stalling at 33% below normal, but connections with the US and the Bahamas are well up. Brazil, Nigeria, and especially China have very strong growth in domestic use of business jets, compared to February 2020. Busiest jet connections are between Hainan and Beijing and Shenzhen. Brazil has busy international connections to Angola, as well as some Caribbean destinations. The busiest domestic airports are Congonhas and Santos Dumont. There has been 350% YOY increase in business jet flights between Porto Seguro and Congonhas, 72 flights between the 2 cities this month. Globally, the busiest business jet in February 2020 was the Challenger 300/350. The Nextant flew 8% more sectors than in Feb-20.
Managing Director WINGX Richard Koe comments “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.”