Holiday flying brings private jet flights to 90% of pre-COVID levels

By Doug Gollan, January 7, 2021

WingX data shows off private aviation’s rebound is still being boosted by holidays and leisure flights

Global private aviation flights in 2020 were down 11% compared to December 2019, according to the latest tracking report from WingX. At its peak of just over 12,000 flights on December 23, the rolling 7-day average daily activity surpassed the previous post-March high point. By contrast, scheduled airline traffic was down by 48% for the month.

Since the pandemic, scheduled passenger movements are down by 63%, whereas business aviation – jets and props – flew 29% less than in 2019 over the same period. Global cargo operations are up by 6% since March and trended up by 16% in December YOY.

Two-thirds of worldwide business aviation activity in December originated in the U.S. These flights were down by 10% YOY, an improvement on the 16% YOY decline in November.

Charter activity continued to be robust, sectors down by 7% YOY, branded charter flight hours up by 2% compared to December 2019. Aircraft Management operations were just 6% off driven by charter flights. Private operations are lagging, 17% below normal, largely due to still-idle corporate flight departments, according to WingX.

On a geographic basis, Florida was the busiest State, with 12% more flights than in December 2019. Flights into Arizona were up by 10% YOY. California lagged the recovery at 80% of normal activity. Texas got a lot closer to recovery in December, departures down by 6% YOY.

The driver for the holiday surge was a vacation location, according to WingX. Flights from the U.S. to Antigua surged 70% while Turks and Caicos flights were up 41%, Sint Martin saw 32% growth, and Mexico a 17% jump.

Domestically, Scottsdale saw a 30% increase in departures, while South Florida airports in Naples, Miami-Opa Locka, and West Palm Beach each saw 20% increases compared to 2019. Teterboro still managed to be the busiest airport for business aviation in December, but departures were 45% less than normal.

“The first half of December was stagnant, but the holiday period demonstrated the enduring demand for business aviation to reach leisure getaway destinations. This is obvious in the Caribbean for the U,S market,” noted WingX managing director Richard Koe.

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