Business jet charters hit new peaks as pandemic retreats

April 02,2021

Business aviation activity in March 2021 is up 30% on the same period in March 2020, and 8% down compared to March 2019, according to WINGX`s weekly Global Market Tracker published today. The year-on-year rebound reflects the relatively unlocked economies this month, compared to 2nd half of March 2020, when lockdown policies had been enforced across most of the world.

Despite the relative easing of restrictions, scheduled airline activity is still down by 18% compared to March 2020, and 44% less than ‘normality’ in March 2019. Global cargo activity is 17% up this month YOY, and 13% up on comparative 2019. Back in 2019, business aviation activity represented 14% of all fixed wing activity globally, whereas in March 2021 the share is 20%.

North America

With 285K business jet and prop flights this month, the North American region accounts for 80% of global activity in March 2021. Compared to locked-down March 2020, this month is 31% up, whilst still trailing March 2019 by 8%. The United States is recovering faster, activity up 36% this month compared to last year, and within 10% of March 2019 ‘normality’.

Aircraft Management companies have seen a 40% rebound this month compared to last year when many owners grounded their aircraft. But the underlying strength is in Branded Charter, with activity in March 2021 up 10% on March 2019, and Year-to-Date charters 2% up on comparable 2019, effectively setting a new US charter activity peak for the first Quarter of a calendar year.

Across the US business jet fleet, even the Heavy and Ultra-Long Range sectors are up at least 25% this month compared to March 2020, although both segments are still trailing Q1 2020. The biggest gains this year are in Entry-level and Very-light, both segments up 15% compared to Q1 2020.

This month Very Light Jet activity is 5% up vs March 2019, mainly driven by the larger Cirrus Personal Jet fleet. Light and Midsize jet segments are both up more than 40% this month YOY and 10% up compared to Q1 2020, but still a few points behind pre-Pandemic activity. The best performing cabin segment in the US is Super Midsize, sectors up 47% YOY, +8% for Q1 2021, and up 3% compared to March 2019.

Europe

In Europe, business aviation activity is up 19% compared to locked-down March 2020, although still 20% behind comparable March 2019. Still, the rolling average daily activity has recovered its highest level since October last year when the secondary lockdowns began.

Italy has seen the highest rebound YOY, almost three-fold increase in flights compared to March 2020. France, Germany, Spain, have all seen activity increase at least 30% this month.

In contrast, business aviation flight activity out of the UK is still down 40% compared to March last year. The biggest rebound in Europe this month have been in Turboprop, and together with VLJ, these segments are up so far this year. In contrast, Ultra Long Range activity in Europe is still down by 30% so far this year.

Rest of the World

Outside the US and Europe, the Asian region has seen the biggest YOY gains this month, these regions now mostly out of lockdown. Year to date, business jet activity in Asia is up 18%. Australia is up 11%. First 3-month trends in China, Nigeria, UAE are up by more than 70%. Business jet activity in Saudi Arabia is down 7% in sectors, down 32% in flight hours. Business jet arrivals in Turks and Caicos are up 32% this year.

Flight activity in Mexico is trailing by 5% this year, by 25% out of top airport Toluca, but flights out of Cabo San Lucas are up 45% this year. Elsewhere, activity out of Al Maktoum airport is up almost three times this year vs 2020, and Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv has seen an additional 35% activity in business jet departures.

Managing Director WINGX Richard Koe comments “The correlation between recovery in business jet activity and lockdown-lift is clear to see in the US, with flights in Florida up 30% YOY, up 15% in Texas, still behind March 2020 in California. In Europe, flight activity in Italy is up almost 3 times despite ongoing restrictions, whereas the UK, with most of the population vaccinated, is 40% behind in YOY traffic. Globally, business jet demand is recovering much faster than scheduled traffic as lockdowns ease.”

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