May 15, 2020
The latest Global Market Tracker report from industry data analyst firm WingX Advance offers some encouraging signs that global business aviation activity has begun to claw its way back from April’s downfall as the COVID-19 pandemic devastated traffic across the U.S. and around the globe.
Global business aviation traffic remains down 58% through the first two weeks in May over the same period in 2019. However, WingX noted this represents “a solid improvement” from the 70% drop in activity for April 2020. Seven-day average daily activity now trends at 5,900 flights worldwide per day, a healthy increase over April 2020 if still far from typical numbers.
“Business aviation activity globally is still at least 50% below normal, but the trend this month is stronger than last month, and steadily recovering in all regions,” said Richard Koe, managing director of WingX Advance.
North America led the increase with 53,000 departures so far in May, a number 58% below normal yet representing 82% of global activity. In contrast, flight activity in Europe remained a “stagnating” 66% below normal, according to WingX.
With international flights still largely idled by global travel restrictions, large-cabin intercontinental business jets remain the “most subdued” category, flying 75% less than normal. Light jets and, in particular, turboprop aircraft are faring better, with WingX noting the busiest aircraft types include Beechcraft King Airs, Pilatus PC-12s and Cessna Caravans.
These shifts in aircraft operations also resulted in some interesting changes to airport traffic numbers around the globe. As hubs like Chicago O’Hare (ORD) and London Heathrow (LHR) grappled with an 85% drop in airline activity through the first half of May, Palm Beach International Airport (PBI) in South Florida emerged as the world’s busiest airport, with Arizona’s Scottsdale Airport (SDL) also experiencing a lower-than-expected drop in activity.
The most resilient business aviation markets currently include Australia, Norway and Brazil, with flights down by around 30%, and Sweden, with flights down by less than 20%. In contrast, the United Kingdom, Italy and Spain have suffered declines of at least 75% in business aviation operations.