While global scheduled airline operations last month lagged May 2019 by 43%, private aviation activity in May 2021 was less than 1% off May 2019. For the year, almost 2.5 million business jet and prop sectors account for 23% of all fixed-wing activity, this activity trailing the comparable five-month period of 2019 by less than 5%, according to WingX. In contrast, global airline sectors are still almost 50% behind compared to 2019. In the business aviation sector, branded charter and fractional operations are now moving ahead of comparable 2019 volumes.
Memorial Day weekend saw a substantial increase in private aviation flight activity, with 32,000 flights in the Friday to Monday period, compared to just 17,000 in 2020, with this year’s holiday racking up 4,000 more departures than Memorial weekend back in 2019. Scheduled airline traffic, by comparison, was 25% up on the 2020 Holiday but still 28% down on the Holiday period in 2019.
For private jets, the most popular destinations were Nantucket, Martha’s Vineyard, Las Vegas, Saint Simons, Albuquerque, Miami-Opa Locka, and Westhampton Beach. There were 52 flights from White Plains into Nantucket Memorial this Memorial Day, with the same pair seeing only nine flights last year and 54 arrivals back in 2019.
Florida private flights jumped 34% compared to May 2020 and 19% ahead of May 2019. The average private jet brings over $80,000 in spending per arrival, excluding fuel and airport services. New Jersey is the only top ten state which is not yet at 2020 levels this year. In 2021, Part 135 and 91K activity are setting new records, busier than 2019, according to WingX.
Wing X managing director Richard Koe says, “The tide is turning as vaccination programs start to release restrictions on all aviation activity, with an emphasis on leisure and domestic trips. This was demonstrated during Memorial Day in the U.S. Business aviation flight activity during the recent Monaco Grand Prix, and UEFA Finals was still pretty modest compared to pre-pandemic, underlining the recovery lag in Europe. Elsewhere there are much stronger rebounds, with the Middle East standing out.”