Business aviation activity is starting to see a slowdown from pandemic highs, according to a recent report by WingX.
Although business and private jet travel remains 20 percent higher than where it was last year, WingX suggests that things might taper off soon. “The big question is whether flight demand can weather the start of autumn and [a] swiftly deteriorating economic outlook in the next few months,” the bulletin said.
WingX said that during August, private jet operators in North America traveled just 1 percent more than they did in 2021. This August’s activity was 13 percent higher than previous highs in 2019, which is a good indication that the overall business jet market has grown as travelers have shifted from commercial airlines to private operators during the pandemic.
But things might turn.
In late August, business jet departures were “down 4 percent compared to the previous week,” WingX said. Going further, August fractional and charter flight activities decreased by 8 percent, according to the report.
North America in Focus
The FAA’s business jet report provides a snapshot of trends in business turbine activity up through the previous month and a ranking of the top 10 airports and aircraft used for business jet operations over the past year.
Bankers and other economic analysts use business jet activities as one indicator of overall economic conditions, according to the FAA. Its August report showed 2,425 fewer departures from the top three domestic business aviation airports of Teterboro, New Jersey (KTEB); West Palm Beach, Florida (KPBI); and Van Nuys, California (KVNY), for the period. This makes August the second consecutive month of declining business travel after setting records last year.
Amid talks of a broad economic slowdown, WingX said that this year, “the overall region of North America has notched up record flight activity, with almost 2 million business jet sectors flown.” That would be 18 percent higher than the same period in 2021.
Moreover, the U.S. market grew by 23 percent during 2019, but Canada and Mexico still haven’t managed to top their pre-pandemic activity, according to the WingX data.
Meanwhile, summer destination favorites, like Puerto Rico, Costa Rica, and the U.S. Virgin Islands have experienced 30 percent more business travel from January to August this year compared to 2019.
Mid-Size Jets Lead the Way
As for what equipment operators seem to prefer, WingX said that this year, in North America, the Bombardier Challenger 300/350 has dominated and is being flown by operators 17 percent more than it was prior to the pandemic.
Meanwhile, the Embraer Phenom 300 and Cessna Citation Latitude have seen the largest increase in fleet size.
Domestically, Cessna’s Citation Excel is still the workhorse of the business aviation industry.
Regarding domestic travel, the FAA’s data shows that among the top 10 aircraft for business jet operations, the Excel, Phenom, and Latitude represent just over 40 percent of all activity.
Interestingly, it wasn’t until June that more operators began using the Latitude slightly more than the popular Hawker 800 jet.