Dec. 2, 2020

As business aviation continues its gradual, incremental recovery from an historic, pandemic-driven fall-off in flight activity, industry leaders see reasons for optimism – including interest from a new kind of clientele, and strong signs of pent-up demand – to offset concerns about the pace of global economic recovery.

Expectations for the industry’s future took focus in the Dec. 2 NBAA GO Virtual Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition (VBACE) Thought Leader Session, The New Era of Healthy Travel, sponsored by Honeywell.

During the discussion, NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen said that encouraging data about flight demand and consumer trends provide confidence that the industry will emerge from the pandemic stronger and more adaptive. He identified an uptick in potential first-time users as a particularly promising sign.

“New customers have seen the inherent advantages to business aviation: going more places in less time, reaching destinations they didn’t think they could reach, and flying in a safe, secure and healthy manner,” said Bolen.

Bolen acknowledged that the industry’s recovery relies on a global economic turnaround tied to COVID-19 vaccines, but he expects business aviation to be a leading indicator of that recovery, once vaccines are distributed next year.

Health concerns related to the pandemic have been a major factor driving new consumer interest in business aviation, said Peter Zeeb, managing director with The VanAllen Group.
“Our clients who have maybe been on the fence about business aviation are seeing that it’s an option to eliminate concerns about a cabin packed with people,” said Zeeb.

Brian Wenig, vice president, mechanical systems for Honeywell Aerospace, reported an increased demand for cabin air filtration systems and antimicrobial surface coatings that he believes represents a “new normal” for the industry.

“The level of thoughtfulness toward cleanliness and the sensitivity to clean cabins is something that’s going to stay,” said Wenig.

The overall trajectory for the industry is healthy, said Chris Bodine, vice president and general manager, StandardAero Business Aviation Services. He’s encouraged by data on flight hours and new owner pre-purchase evaluations as a sign that first-time flyers are likely to stick around.

Review NBAA’s COVID-19 resources.