Private jet recovery hits post-March high despite COVID-19 surge, event cancelations

By Doug Gollan, October 29, 2020

The latest WingX weekly tracking report shows private jet travel continues to hold onto its recovery despite the resurgence of COVID-19 and fewer UHNW events

Global business aviation activity is down by 15% through most of October 2020 compared to the same period in 2019. However, 15% down is the new up if you are in a travel-related business, for sure.

Private flight tracking service WingX notes, “This is a resilient trend considering the resurgence of virus concerns in key European and U.S. markets, and the associated travel restrictions, which have been reflected in more than 50% drops in scheduled airline operations.”

Rolling 7-day average business aviation activity hit a post-March high of just over 12,000 daily sectors on October 19, compared to a low point of just 4,000 in the Spring and a high point of 11,000 this summer.

With business travel largely on hold, WingX said the leisure demand is up in terms of robust charter demand, leisure destination, and smaller aircraft.

“Business aviation demand is holding up globally, encouraging to see a post-March high in daily operations. Charter and fractional operations are fairly robust, and as we know that business travel is greatly subdued, this suggests there is a strong underlying demand for safe and convenient leisure and lifestyle travel,” said Richard Koe, WingX’s managing director.

This month, three-quarters of global business aviation activity is in the North American region, with the United States seeing the lion’s share, trending 14% below normal, then Canada, Mexico, and the Bahamas next busiest, all with more severe declines.

The U.S. market is slightly improving at the aggregate level in the last two months, and at 86% of October 2019 volume, “the trend is fairly encouraging given this month is typically driven by calendar events which are all canceled this year,” WingX said in a press release.

Key to the good numbers was the Part 135 charter market (on-demand charter and jet cards), with branded charter operations only 7% below normal.

Fractional operations are now also seeing a stronger recovery, trending likewise at 93% of normal. Private operations, including corporate flight departments, continue to fly much less, sectors 23% below the same period last year.

Florida, Colorado see double digit increase in private jet flights

Two of the busiest four U.S. states have seen growth in business aviation activity this month, with Florida and Colorado seeing double-digit growth year-over-year.

Texas was the busiest state, with flights down 14% YOY. Flight activity out of California, still mainly in lockdown, is down only 11%, WingX notes.

The East Coast is where we see the biggest dent in normal operations. New Jersey flights were down 46% compared to 2019, with Teterboro still highly impacted.

South Carolina is another outlier, flights up 2%, and sustained growth to getaway destinations – Utah, Montana, and Idaho.

In Europe, four of the biggest six markets see fast-deteriorating declines: Switzerland, France, Spain, and particularly the UK, with flights down by a third vs. October 2019.

Germany and Italy are so far less affected, above 90% of normal, and domestic flights in Germany, Italy, also Sweden are up in October. Flight activity in Turkey and Russia, powered by the domestic market, was up.

In Europe, charter and jet cards also led the way, down only 8%. The busiest charter flows are domestic: UK, France, Spain, all well behind, and Germany, only 5% below normal.

The busiest international charter connection in Europe is the UK to France, with flights down by 35%. Next is the UK to Germany, with charters up almost 10% this month. Other country flows point to half-term holiday demand: private jet charters are up between Germany, Italy, UK, Turkey, and Greece. Charter pairs from Moscow Vnukovo are well up – with Riga, Bodrum, Nice, Larnaca popular destinations.

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