Where are the private jets? Head for the mountains

By Doug Gollan, September 25, 2020

Wyoming, Montana, Utah and Colorado have seen the smallest decreases in private jet flights so far this year, according to Argus TRAQPak

Just published data from Argus TRAQPak shows if you want to know where all the private jets have gone, head to the mountains. Wyoming, down 5.8%, Montana (-6.7%), Utah (-7.2%), and Colorado (-10.2%) saw the smallest decreases during the first nine months of the year. Arizona performed the best of non-mountain states with an 11.7% decline. Overall, private aviation flights were down 28.1% through the end of August.

Continental states with the biggest drops were led by New Jersey, down 44.6%. Teterboro Airport, typically the busiest U.S. airport for private jets, was off by more than 50%. Iowa had the second most severe drop (-37.8%), followed by Maine (-37.3%), Massachusetts (-36.6%), Illinois (-36.0%), Louisiana (-35.1%), and Virginia (-35%). The latter was dragged down by a 38.8% drop in activity at National and Dulles Airports, both serving Washington D.C.

In terms of the state’s with the most flights, top-ranked Florida was down 13.8%, followed by second-place California (-29.4%), Texas (-27.9%), Colorado (-10.2%), and Georgia (-30%) rounding out the top five.

The data covered flight made under Part 91, Part 91K and Part 135, and excluded cargo and scheduled flights.

Private jet flights by State
Wyoming, Montana, Utah, and Colorado had the lowest decrease in private jet flights year-to-date through August, according to Argus TRAQPak.

During a webinar held today, Travis Kuhn, a vice president with Argus said private flights are expected to rebound to within 10% of 2019 levels by November. However, its current projection for September has been revised downwards to 17.7% from 14%. Still, it’s an improvement from August when flight activity was down 21%, in line with a 20% drop in July.

Kuhn said the lack of progress in August was expected due to the later Labor Day holiday. After dropping by 31% in March, April private flights were off by 71% before rebounding.

Private jet flights by state
Florida, the state with the most private jet flights, saw a drop of just 13.8% while second place California suffered a 29.4% decline.

As a sign of the recovery, Kuhn said between March and May 15 there were 41 days where flight activity was lower than Christmas Day 2019. The holiday typically has the lowest flight activity of the year. Since the middle that month, there have only been two dates with a lower number of private jet flights. Both were tied to national holidays.

Kuhn affirmed predictions that airline service isn’t likely to reach pre-pandemic levels until 2023.

Still, private aviation will continue to face near-term headwinds, mainly restrictions on international flights and lower demand for business trips.

Looking at the week of Sept. 14-20, Kuhn noted Sunday departures were only off 7.9%. However, Thursday, typically the busiest day for private flights as business travelers return home and others start extended weekends away, was down 19.8%, an indication that corporate flying remains weak.

A just-released survey of consumers by Private Jet Card Comparisons found 29% of new private aviation users plan to make business-related private jet flights this Fall. Of respondents who had been using private aviation prior to the pandemic, 13% said they would be making more business trips via private aviation compared to 44% who will be flying less and 43% saying there will be no change.

Kuhn provided a bullish outlook saying private aviation has “greatly expanded” its consumer audience during the COVID-19 crisis. He was optimistic new users will continue after the pandemic.

“I think you get used to something, you want to keep that….Now they don’t deal with security lines. It’s going to be very hard to go back…I think the vast majority are going to stay,” he said.

Sentiment analysis of Private Jet Card subscribers showed 53% are likely to stick with private aviation.

However, it was not all wine and roses. Scott Cutshall, an executive with Clay Lacy Aviation, a larger charter operator, countered one optimistic graphic by commenting, “Can’t just look at hours. That only tells half the story. Must also look at charter rates. Rates today are not sustainable for the industry.”


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