Private jet flyers are hanging at their second homes this Fall

By Doug Gollan, October 30, 2020

New research from Tuvoli shows how COVID-19 has altered the travel patterns of private jet users

An analysis of FAA flight data by Tuvoli, a platform that expedites payments between private jet charter brokers and operators, reveals how COVID-19 is impacting where America’s most affluent folks are hanging out, or at least those that use private jets.

Hint: It’s not the big city!

At perenially top-ranked Teterboro Airport in Northern New Jersey, just across the river from Manhattan, private jet flights were down 52% for the first four weeks of October.

To the north of New York City, at Westchester County Airport, last year, the third busiest for private jet flights in the country, October flights were down 31%.

Airport/State % Change
Oct. 2020/2019
Westhampton Airport, New York172%
Aspen Airport, Colorado135%
Vail/Eagle Airport, Colorado103%
Nantucket Memorial Airport, Massachusetts26%
Scottsdale Airport, Arizona23%
Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts19%
Naples Airport, Florida19%
Miami Opa Locka, Florida18%
Bandon Dunes, Oregon16%
Ft. Lauderale Executive, Florida13%
Denver Centennial Airport, Colorado8%
Palm Beach International, Florida6%
Los Angeles Van Nuys, California2%
Dallas Love Field, Texas-4%
Atlanta Peachtree DeKalb, Georgia-7%
Ft. Lauderdale Int’l, Florida-8%
Morristown Airport, New Jersey-24%
Boston Hanscom Field, Massachusetts-29%
Westchester Country Airport, New York-31%
Washington Dulles Airport, Virginia-40%
Chicago Midway Airport, Illinois-47%
Teterboro Airport, New Jersey-52%
Source: Tuvoli

New Jersey’s Morristown Airport, often spotted when President Donald Trump visits his private golf club in nearby Bedminster, saw its private flights down by 24% month-to-date.

Washington Dulles Airport, the sixth busiest airport for private flights in 2019, saw private traffic drop 40% for the month. Similarly, private flights at Midway Airport in Chicago ranked 11th last year, dropped 47%. At 14th ranked Hanscom Field, just outside Boston, flights in October were down 29%.

With WingX tracking overall flights in the U.S. down by a mere 15% compared to last year at this time, clearly, the people who are flying in private jets are going to different places.

At a time when the locals would typically have to place mostly to themselves, private flights at Westhampton Airport on Long Island’s east end were up a whopping 172% compared to October 2019. In Aspen, they were running 135% ahead of last year. Vail/Eagle Airport saw a 103% increase.

Greg Johnson, president of Tuvoli, points out that some trend lines seemingly returning to normal earlier in the month have altered course in the past two weeks.

While private flights to Nantucket were up 26% for the month, over the last seven days, they were up 76%. Martha’s Vineyard is up 19% for the month, but 41% in the past week.

Scottsdale Airport, a convenient airport for private jet flyers who have second homes nearby, saw flights up 23% in October. Naples, Florida private flights were up 19%. At the same time, Bandon Dunes, a hot spot for golfers, saw flights jump 35% in the past week and overall 16% in October, perhaps a reflection that out on the links is a good place for some socially distanced business networking.

Naples Airport on Florida’s Gulf Coast saw an unseasonal but modest 18% boost. Private flights at Palm Beach International Airport were up 6%.

Not all big cities were down. Van Nuys Airport in Los Angeles’ San Fernando Valley, typically fourth busiest in the nation, saw traffic tick up by 2.2% and flights at Centennial Airport in Denver were up 8%.

Love Field in Dallas, typically the second busiest airport for private jets in the country, only saw a 4% drop compared to October 2019. Atlanta’s Peachtree DeKalb Airport, last year 10th ranked, saw a 7% decline in October.

The three major airports for private flights serving the Miami/Fort Lauderdale area also saw boosts. Flights at Ft. Lauderdale Executive Airport were up 13% for the month while Opa Locka saw an 18% gain. And while private flights at Ft. Lauderdale International Airport were down 8%, overall flights, including commercial airlines, was off 44%.

Highlighting the disparity of the private aviation recovery, Johnson notes, 77% of U.S. airports saw a decline in private flights, including 22% that saw a drop of more than 30% in October.

COVID-19 isn’t just changing travel patterns for the UHNWs. As we reported a few days ago, at least one charter broker reports the number of flights with pets has doubled since COVID-19.

Oh, and they’re leaving the big jets parked. Flight activity for light, midsize, super-midsize jets, and even turboprops were all within -5%/+3% of October 2019 levels. However, flights on large-cabin jets were down 30%.

(Editor’s note: An earlier edition had incorrect numbers for Vail, Washington-Dulles, and Westhampton.)

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