April 17, 2020

Data compiled by Argus International through its TrakPaq flight operations tracking system and published in a recent whitepaper, COVID-19 and the Impact on the Business Aviation Industry, confirms that business aviation traffic dropped precipitously from mid-March into April.

During the week of March 11-17 – immediately preceding social distancing and shelter-in-place orders in several U.S. states – Argus said there were 56,154 business aviation flights. The following week, activity declined to 28,899 flights, a nearly 47% drop that Argus noted was “closer to Christmas Day activity, rather than one of the busiest months on the calendar.”

The decline in traffic continued through the first week in April, with charter flights declining 67% relative to the same period in April 2019, while general aviation flights have seen a 73% decline.

Argus forecasts that April activity will drop 44% overall, compared to April 2019, “but it could be as high as 60% if shelter-in-place and overall nationwide lockdown orders remain,” with New York, Washington and California – areas hit particularly hard by COVID-19 – predictably lagging behind other states in rebounding.

“That is important because California was the number one state in 2019, in terms of flight activity, and New Jersey was number four,” the report continued. “This means our industry needs to be focused on Texas (second), Florida (third) and Georgia (fifth) when it comes to a rebound in flight activity. For comparison, those three states combined for 21% of all business aviation activity in 2019.”

How soon might the industry rebound? That will depend upon several factors, according to Argus. The company noted that a relatively quick return to near-normal conditions within a few weeks after the pandemic peaks in Texas, Florida and Georgia could lead to a faster recovery overall, though a lag would predictably drag down the industry’s rebound.

“Many estimates assume a peak in COVID-19 cases in the U.S. sometime in April,” the report noted. “While we have no way of knowing, the data indicates the sooner the better for our overall health, the health of our country and the health of business aviation.”