Many companies in the business and general aviation sector are anticipating a positive second half of the year as quarantines lift and pandemic fears continue to drive demand for flying private.
Aviation data consultants WINGX has compared business aviation traffic levels in 2021 to 2019’s, to better gauge a return to normality, rather than rebound from locked-down 2020.
The evidence suggests that charter demand in domestic markets, especially the USA, may exceed pre-pandemic levels this year. Although Europe is still running behind there is a possibility the sector will make up ground, especially in leisure demand, through the rest of the year.
Europe catching up
In Europe, branded charter operators are still a way from closing the gap on 2019’s activity levels and are 14% below so far this year, with May 2021 down 12% for example.
However, overall the busiest 10 countries in Europe are now ahead of 2020, the exception being the UK, where traffic is still 20% behind 2020 trends and 40% below 2019 levels.
In Western Europe, Spain has seen business aviation departures increase by 60%, and trending 12% up on 2019. The Balearic Islands are the most popular destination, with flights up by 58% compared to same period 2019. Andalucia and Galicia have also seen more business aviation arrivals this year than pre-pandemic. The growth momentum is coming from Germany; business aviation visitors are up more than 25% this year compared to 2019.
Milano Prime at Linate recorded +30.8% compared to 2020 and a three-digit increase in the first weeks of May, although the market has not yet returned to 2019 levels.
“We see the rest of the year as potentially positive. The roll out of the vaccination throughout Europe, the lifting of quarantine measures in Italy for those coming from Europe and the UK prior to the forthcoming summer season, suggests that traffic will grow further,”said Chiara Dorigotti, CEO of SEA Prime.
“We can definitely say we are cautiously optimistic for the future and we expect 2022 to be a year where we can envisage a full recovery of traffic.”
The positive effects of the vaccination campaigns are expected throughout 2021, with further recovery in view of the summer season. Milano Prime is expecting to welcome back premium customers to live events in Milan such as the Design Week, the F1 Grand Prix and the Fashion Week.
Operator Euro Jet is anticipating an extremely busy summer and will be providing full ground support services throughout the countries that surround the Adriatic Sea, including Croatia, Montenegro, Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Albania.
The US market continues to make gains, with business aviation activity this year up by 37% compared to the first four and a half months of 2020. The charter market has almost 50% more sectors this year than last, and 4% more charters flown than in the same period of 2019.
Compared to the January to May period in 2019, 2021 has seen more than 15% increase in charter flights between the USA and Mexico, Bahamas and Turks and Caicos, and 77% increase in charters to Antigua and Barbados. Canada is the outlier, with this year’s charter connections with the US still 59% down on last year, over 70% below comparable 2019.
Private jet company Wheels Up reported a 68% jump in first-quarter revenue and 56% increase in active members and VistaJet said its membership has grown 29% over the past year.
Outside Europe and the US, WINGX data reveals that Canada is the biggest domestic market for business aviation, with internal flights up 17% this year so far compared to 2020, but still 3% behind 2019. Mexico is the next busiest market for business jet movements, 1% more flights this year than last year but still 50% behind 2019.
Elsewhere Brazil and Australia have seen substantial gains this year compared to 2019, and China’s domestic business jet travel have more than doubled compared to 2019. Business jet sectors flown within Nigeria and South Africa are also much higher than pre-pandemic.
Other important business jet markets, including Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Indonesia, are still catching up with 2019 trends. Overall, business jet traffic is up 33% outside the US and Europe so far this year versus last, but still 14% below 2019 levels.