Global activity up 11% YOY, US Charters at record high

March 26,2021

With the anniversary of lockdowns in Europe and North America now behind us, the global market is showing 11% more business jet flight activity for the first three weeks of March 2021 than in the same period in March last year.

According to WINGX`s weekly Global Market Tracker, worldwide business jet activity this month is within 10% of the same period in March 2019.

Business jet sectors in Europe are still trailing March 2020, but all other regions are ahead of March last year, when mid-month lockdowns resulted in a 50% loss of normal activity. Meanwhile global scheduled airline activity is still tracking 30% below the level of March 2020, 40% below 2019 levels, closer to 75% decline in Europe compared to March 2019.

Global scheduled, cargo, business aviation flight activity March 21st 2021 YTD

North America

North America is driving the global recovery in business jet activity, with rolling 7-day average activity back at pre-Pandemic pace last week. Specifically, 6,437 sectors on March 17th compares to 6,326 on the comparable day in March 2020 and 6,815 back in March 2019.

The US is the key market, with flight activity through 21st March up by 17% compared to last year. The major rebounds this month have been in Fractional operations, up 21% off last year’s lows. Private owners and corporate flight department traffic is 15% up vs March 2020. Charters are up 14% YOY, despite last March being quite resilient for charter demand, especially around repatriation. Compared to March 2019, Branded Charter operations in the US are up 16%, suggesting that we are now seeing record levels of activity.

Compared to March 2020, this month’s biggest rebound in the US is in Super-Mid and Midsize Jets, flying 20% more, and Very Light Jet, sectors up by 31% YOY. As it has been throughout the pandemic, Florida is the hub for US flight activity, in contrast to its ranking below California and Texas pre-Pandemic.

Business jet and prop activity originating in Florida is trending 19% above the March 2020 peak, which was itself higher than any day in March 2019. Charter demand has been the main driver, with this month’s trend peaking at 360 daily sectors, compared to a 304 peak in March 2020 and a high point of 246 daily sectors in March 2019. Miami-Opa has maintained its strong growth this month, departures up 50% YOY. Smaller Florida airports like Panama City Beach are seeing activity well up.

Europe

European flight activity is reflecting the fact that the region is still under various levels of lockdown, with some countries more severely restricting travel than in March 2020.

Business Aviation - Charter - 1st January 2021 - March 23rd 2021.

For the month so far, business jet activity is close to comparable March 2020, but peak activity this month, 320 daily sectors, compares to a peak of 406 just before the lockdown last March, and an average back in March 2019 of 355 flights a day. There is some regional rebound this month, with flight activity in Italy up 150%, reflecting its early lockdown. The UK, which had a relatively late lockdown, and for which restrictions are now much stricter, is seeing more than 50% reduction in business aviation activity this month. Indeed, trending daily activity in the UK is half what it was in July last year.

Business vs Scheduled pair deterioration, Milan, Mar 2021

Other countries in Europe are seeing a strong rebound this month. Austria is slightly up, whilst Ukraine, Greece, Poland, are all seeing growth of more than 20% compared to March 2020. Smaller markets across Eastern and Southern Europe are also seeing strong YOY recoveries: Malta, Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary, Latvia. Business aviation out of Germany is down only 2%, with no other country seeing the same declines as the UK, although Switzerland and Netherlands are both trailing by 20%. At the airport level, whilst Ciampino and Malpensa have more than doubled moribund traffic in March 2020, the UK’s airports are operating under half normal activity. Geneva, deprived of a ski season, is also well down on usual. In contrast, Majorca is up 8% and Madrid Barajas departures are up 25% YOY.

Rest of the World

Outside the US and Europe, the strongest markets are Russia and Turkey, which have been resilient throughout the pandemic. Business jet travel in these two countries is up 30% this month. Trending daily activity is also up 19% on March 2019. Vnukovo has outranked Le Bourget in March activity, with 12% growth compared to March last year. Vnukovo’s activity is similar to Toluca, Mexico, which is trending down 36% this month. Nassau’s activity is also comparable and trending up 8% in March. Other leading airports for business jet departures include Al Maktoum, activity more than double where it was in March 2020 and in March 2019.

Managing Director WINGX Richard Koe comments “Beyond the lockdown anniversary in Europe and North America, we can now see the rebound from the low points and the recovery towards normal activity levels. For Europe, the rebound is in early stages, particularly Western Europe. Outside Europe, normal flight activity has resumed. In the US, there are signs that business jet activity in 2021 may exceed 2019 activity in some States, particularly for the charter market.”

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