How COVID impacted Thanksgiving private jet flights by day, state, busiest airports and international destinations

By Doug Gollan, December 4, 2020

Thanksgiving private jet flights were 7.6% off 2019 pre-COVID levels compared to 60% for the airlines, and there were big changes in when and where people were flying

The largest market for private jets, Florida, had a 13% increase, with Palm Beach flights increasing 87%

More private jet travelers flew the Saturday and Sunday before Thanksgiving

Mexico, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, St. Maarten, Bermuda, Costa Rica, and Jamaica saw increases in U.S. arrivals

While private jets remain the shining star of the gutted travel industry, Thanksgiving flights may have fallen short of expectations.

According to WingX, the extended Thanksgiving period, from Friday before the holiday through Monday after, saw 56,005 U.S. private jet departures, 7.6% below 2019 levels. Despite COVID-19, during the July 4th holiday, private flights increased by 5% year-over-year.

Still, by comparison, the recovery gap between private aviation and the airlines remains wide. The number of airline passengers passing through TSA checkpoints for that same period dropped by 60% to 10.5 million from 26.1 million.

With fewer touchpoints, private aviation has been benefiting from new customers seeking to avoid exposure to COVID. Executives from the industry have recently said in some cases their activity is now back above pre-pandemic levels.

Analyzing the data from the 11-day Thanksgiving travel period beginning the Friday before the holiday through the Monday afterward revealed big shifts, even if total flights were close to 2019 levels.

Specifically, we examined Thanksgiving private jet flights ranked by day, state, busiest airports, and most popular international and U.S. territory destinations for U.S. departures. You will find a summary and detailed tables for each below.

Private Jet Departures by Day

According to WingX data provided to Private Jet Card Comparisons, the 11-day period showed only two days (table below) when U.S. private jet departures increased – the Saturday and Sunday before Thanksgiving.

Saturday before the holiday saw the biggest increase with private flights up by 18.5%. The busiest days – the Sunday after Thanksgiving and the Friday before the holiday – held their positions. The biggest drops came the Saturday after Thanksgiving (-21%) and Thanksgiving Day (-18.7%), indicating private jet flyers took off earlier and stayed a bit longer.

Private Jet Departures by Day (2020 vs. 2019)

Day of Week2019 Departures2020 DeparturesYOY %Change
Friday               7,030               6,535-7.0%-495
Saturday               4,752               5,63018.5%878
Sunday               4,861               5,2347.7%373
Monday               5,221               4,997-4.3%-224
Tuesday               6,399               5,608-12.4%-791
Wednesday               6,225               5,449-12.5%-776
Thanksgiving Thursday               2,081               1,691-18.7%-390
Friday               3,591               3,283-8.6%-308
Saturday               5,796               4,581-21.0%-1,215
Sunday               8,081               7,502-7.2%-579
Monday               6,600               5,495-16.7%-1105
Total Thanksgiving            60,637            56,005-7.6%-4,632
Source: WingX

Private Jet Departures by State

In terms of private flights by state (table below), while overall the segment may have been closing in on last year’s numbers, there were far fewer winners in terms of gains. Only seven of the 50 states, plus the District of Columbia, saw gains.

Wyoming saw the biggest gain with a 37% increase, although it was still 41st overall. Sixth-ranked Colorado saw an 18% increase while 8th-ranked Arizona and 30th ranked Utah saw private jet departures increase by 15%.

Florida, which held its top spot in departures (9,710), saw an increase by 13%, Second place California was down 3%, while Texas, ranked third, saw departures down 7%, fourth place Georgia was off 1%, and fifth place New York was down 10%.

New Jersey, driven by a decline at Teterboro Airport, which service New York City, saw private jet departures drop 37%. However, Vermont saw the biggest decline (-49%), followed by Rhode Island (-41%).

Private Jet Departures by State (2020 vs. 2019)

(20-30 Nov)
(22 Nov – 2 Dec)
1. Florida9,7108,61313%
2. California6,6616,880-3%
3. Texas5,9766,421-7%
4. Georgia2,0872,106-1%
5. New York2,0152,243-10%
6. Colorado1,9371,63718%
7. New Jersey1,8502,938-37%
8. Arizona1,8261,58115%
9. Illinois1,5691,796-13%
10. North Carolina1,4891,632-9%
11. Tennessee1,2661,473-14%
12. Ohio1,1291,474-23%
13. Massachusetts1,1021,216-9%
14. Michigan1,0991,270-13%
15. Pennsylvania9971,409-29%
16. South Carolina9791,002-2%
17. Nevada9401,168-20%
18. Missouri8581,028-17%
19. Indiana7421,042-29%
20. Alabama680811-16%
21. Arkansas673711-5%
22. Louisiana666896-26%
23. Virginia664872-24%
24. Wisconsin614759-19%
25. Washington609734-17%
26. District of Columbia589733-20%
27. Oklahoma579614-6%
28. Minnesota517684-24%
29. Kansas516595-13%
30. Utah50944415%
31. Oregon5054756%
32. Kentucky388415-7%
33. Idaho3743633%
34. Maryland365390-6%
35. Nebraska361448-19%
36. Montana358368-3%
37. Connecticut308398-23%
38. Iowa305379-20%
39. Mississippi291417-30%
40. Wyoming28720937%
41. New Mexico245294-17%
42. Hawaii206269-23%
43. Alaska186187-1%
44. New Hampshire184215-14%
45. South Dakota156161-3%
46. Maine154164-6%
47. Delaware134174-23%
48. West Virginia116171-32%
49. Rhode Island99167-41%
50. North Dakota8186-6%
51. Vermont54105-49%
Source: WingX

Top 50 Airports by Private Jet Departures

Among the 50 busiest airports ranked by 2020 private jet departures, there was also a lot of volatility, with 37 seeing changes in departures up or down by more than 10% and 17 having changes of +/- 25%, in other words, where the private jet set flew changed significantly.

Palm Beach International Airport was not only the busiest with 1,386 departures, an average of 126 per day over the 11 day period, but it also had the biggest year-over-year gain, an 87% increase.

Despite a 43% drop – the biggest among the top 50 airports, Teterboro still ranked second with 1,251 departures. Van Nuys Airport, the major private jet airport serving Los Angeles, saw a 5% increase (1,037) while departures at Dallas Love Filed (998) dipped by 1%. Fifth and sixth-ranked airports in Naples, Florida, and Scottsdale each had 30% gains.

Miami-Opa Locka Executive Airport ranked seventh, giving Florida thee of the seven top spots. Florida had seven and California six of the 23 airports among the top 50 that saw gains in private jet departures.

Top 50 Private Jet Airports (2020 vs. 2019)

Departure Airport2020
(20-30 Nov)
(22 Nov – 2 Dec)
1. KPBI, PBI, Palm Beach Intl., West Palm Beach, FL1,38674287%
2. KTEB, TEB, Teterboro, Teterboro, NJ1,2512,206-43%
3. KVNY, VNY, Van Nuys, Van Nuys, CA1,0379835%
4. KDAL, DAL, Dallas Love Field, Dallas, TX9981,012-1%
5. KAPF, APF, Naples Municipal, Naples, FL95273330%
6. KSDL, SCF, Scottsdale, Scottsdale, AZ89568830%
7. KOPF, OPF, Miami-Opa Locka Executive, Miami, FL86774117%
8. KHPN, HPN, Westchester County, White Plains, NY8251,022-19%
9. KHOU, HOU, William P Hobby, Houston, TX683706-3%
10. KAPA, APA, Centennial, Denver, CO62552619%
11. KLAS, LAS, McCarran Intl., Las Vegas, NV603813-26%
12. KSNA, SNA, John Wayne Orange County, Santa Ana, CA6005754%
13. KPDK, PDK, DeKalb Peachtree, Atlanta, GA5925616%
14. KIAD, IAD, Washington Dulles Intl., Dulles, VA576697-17%
15. KFXE, FXE, Ft. Lauderdale Executive, Ft. Lauderdale, FL53245118%
16. KBCT, BCT, Boca Raton, Boca Raton, FL487705-31%
17. KBED, BED, Laurence G Hanscom Field, Bedford, MA469595-21%
18. KMDW, MDW, Chicago Midway Intl., Chicago, IL448628-29%
19. KSRQ, SRQ, Sarasota Bradenton Intl., Sarasota, FL43832734%
20. KFLL, FLL, Ft. Lauderdale Hollywood Intl., Ft. Lauderdale, FL437516-15%
21. KPWK, PWK, Chicago Executive, Chicago, IL43737616%
22. KAUS, AUS, Austin Bergstrom Intl., Austin, TX425462-8%
23. KPTK, PTK, Oakland County Intl., Pontiac, MI3893579%
24. KOAK, OAK, Metropolitan Oakland Intl., Oakland, CA383560-32%
25. KMIA, MIA, Miami Intl., Miami, FL372412-10%
26. KSAT, SAT, San Antonio Intl., San Antonio, TX369403-8%
27. KSJC, SJC, Norman Y. Mineta San Jose Intl., San Jose, CA365488-25%
28. KBNA, BNA, Nashville Intl., Nashville, TN362446-19%
29. KSUA, SUA, Witham Field, Stuart, FL328480-32%
30. KSLC, SLC, Salt Lake City Intl., Salt Lake City, UT32027218%
31. KBFI, BFI, Boeing Field King County Intl., Seattle, WA317469-32%
32. KLAX, LAX, Los Angeles Intl., Los Angeles, CA309386-20%
33. KPSP, PSP, Palm Springs Intl., Palm Springs, CA2942872%
34. KSFO, SFO, San Francisco Intl., San Francisco, CA29423227%
35. KECP, ECP, NW Florida Beaches Intl., Panama City, FL29221238%
36. KFTW, FTW, Fort Worth Meacham Intl., Fort Worth, TX292323-10%
37. KASE, ASE, Aspen-Pitkin Co/Sardy Field, Aspen, CO29017368%
38. KTRM, TRM, Jacqueline Cochran Airport, Palm Springs, CA29025016%
39. KTPA, TPA, Tampa Intl., Tampa, FL28826310%
40 . KCHS, CHS, Charleston Intl., Charleston, SC2762597%
41. KCRQ, CLD, Mc Clellan-Palomar, Carlsbad, CA2742673%
42. KADS, ADS, Addison, Dallas, TX27224113%
43. KMMU, MMU, Morristown Municipal, Morristown, TX272356-24%
44. KBUR, BUR, Bob Hope, Burbank, CA271368-26%
45. KSAV, SAV, Savannah Hilton Head Intl., Savannah, GA266303-12%
46. KRDU, RDU, Raleigh Durham Intl., Raleigh/Durham, NC265326-19%
47. KFRG, FRG, Republic, Farmingdale, NY2592590%
48. KCLT, CLT, Charlotte Douglas Intl., Charlotte, NC257274-6%
49. KPHX, PHX, Phoenix Sky Harbor Intl., Phoenix, AZ255313-19%
50. KEGE, EGE, Eagle County Regional, Eagle, CO24920521%
Source: WingX

Top International, U.S. Territory Private Jet Destinations

Mexico remained the number one destination for private jets leaving the U.S. with 1,246 flights, with over 113 flights per day during the Thanksgiving holiday, an increase of 6%. Of the 25 top destinations, 12 saw gains, with St. Lucia up 180%, although it was based on an increase of 13 flights, from 5 to 18. Puerto Rico (+57%) and Bermuda (+50%) each saw big growth.

Canada held onto its spots as the second most popular destination with 515 flights despite a 50% decrease. The Bahamas was third with 380 flights on a 33% decline, while was Turks and Caicos saw a 12% dip, still good for fourth place with 123 flights.

Flights from the U.S. to the U.K. dropped 76%, from 108 to 26.

Top 25 International, U.S. Territory Private Jet Destinations

Destination from the U.S.2020 Flights
(20-30 Nov)
2019 Flights
(22 Nov – 2 Dec)
1. Mexico          1,246          1,1746%
2.  Canada             515          1,021-50%
3. the Bahamas             380             569-33%
 4. Turks and Caicos Islands             123             140-12%
 5. Puerto Rico             119               7657%
 6. Dominican Republic             101               9210%
7.  St. Maarten               73               713%
 8. U.S. Virgin Islands               51               56-9%
 9. Bermuda               48               3250%
 10. Costa Rica               47               3727%
11. Antigua and Barbuda               37               38-3%
12.  Jamaica               36               346%
13.  United Kingdom               26             108-76%
14. Colombia               24               27-11%
15.  Guatemala               17               27-37%
16.  Anguilla               17               35-51%
17. Saint Vincent and the Grenadines               17               166%
 18. Panama               14               20-30%
 19. Ecuador               14               17-18%
 20. Saint Lucia               14                 5180%
 21. Cayman Islands               14               89-84%
 22. Honduras               12                 933%
 23. Barbados               11               22-50%
 24. Nicaragua               10                 825%
25. El Salvador 10 667%
Source: WingX

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