As borders open, Spain leads Europe's private jet travel surge

By Doug Gollan, July 23, 2020

WingX’s Global Market Tracker shows private jet flights in Europe rebounded to 85% of 2019 levels so far in July

Who needs the Americans? Not Europe’s private aviation segment, at least not at the moment.

With borders opening across the continent earlier this month, WingX’s weekly Global Market Tracker reports private jet flights in Europe to rebound to 85% of 2019 activity.

It’s a big change from just weeks ago when U.S. private flights were approaching 2019 levels.

Richard Koe, managing director of WingX says, “The European region is ahead of the U.S. on the pandemic curve and has regained the initiative in terms of recovery in business aviation.”

He adds, “Both regions have seen leisure market rebounds in bizav, the U.S. bounce-back now stalled by secondary lockdown in California, the European region released as quarantines lift.”

Like the U.S., business aviation is still far out-pacing commercial airlines on both sides of the pond. Europe’s private aviation sector has surged to within 15% of normal through the first three weeks of July. On the other side, airline activity is still 60% below normal.

Central Europe’s private jet recovery

Central Europe is seeing the strongest regional recovery, with private jet activity in Germany and Switzerland within 5% of normal. Flights from Austria are actually up by 9% compared to July last year. Koe points to the relaunch of the Grand Prix season with two consecutive events at the Red Bull ring.

Spain, a key summer market, is only off 2% from 2019 in July. Ibiza flights are down by 10% due to restrictions on large gatherings. However, Malaga’s private flight activity is up by 8%, and private jet arrivals into Majorca are up 20%, representing an additional six flights a day compared to last year.

Private Jet arrivals impact the economy

Private jet users spend on average over $80,000 per visit, excluding refueling and airport fees. If sustained through the rest of July and August, that would translate into around $30 million in incremental spending for the much-starved tourism industry.

WingX data indicates Seville, Alicante, and Jerez are also all seeing a bounceback. So far, traffic is mainly domestic, although German, Swiss, and Dutch tourists are now leading the return in international visitors.

In other areas, results are more mixed. Flights into Belgium this month are up 13% year-over-year, boosted by the just-completed European summit. The U.K. is doing better since the quarantine lifted on July 10, but still lags the rest of Europe with flights 37% below 2019.

Italy is similarly struggling. For example, Olbia arrivals are down 32% YOY, and the vast majority of its traffic still domestic.

France has regained top country spot despite a 14% drop in flights and a 23% decline of flight hours. Nice recovered to 81% of normal, but Paris Le Bourget’s activity is still down 40%. Private jet flights to Cannes increased 5% so far in July.

The rebound in the U.S. has been driven by new-to-market fliers, seeking to reduce COVID-19 exposure even as business travel lags.

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