December Holiday Travel Provides Private Aviation Boost

 - January 7, 2021, 11:14 AM
Cessna Citation M2 (Photo: Textron Aviation)

This story is part of AIN's continuing coverage of the impact of the coronavirus on aviation.


Global business aviation saw a surge over the December holiday period that brought activity levels to within 11 percent of those of the previous December, according to statistics released today by industry data provider WingX Advance. The segment saw a peak of 12,000 flights on December 23 and the rolling seven-day average daily activity was the highest since March when the Covid pandemic fully manifested itself in the U.S. While commercial scheduled aviation has been down by 63 percent since the start of the pandemic, WingX said business aircraft traffic was down by less than half that amount over the same period,

The U.S., which accounted for two-thirds of the private aviation traffic in December, was down by 10 percent over 2019’s total. That was an improvement over November, which was off by 16 percent year-over-year.

Charter activity was the most resilient, down by 7 percent year-over-year, while Part 91 operations, due largely to idle corporate flight departments according to WingX, were off by 17 percent. Getaway locations provided the largest draw, with Caribbean locations seeing a major bounce back, exceeding 2019 numbers in some cases by nearly 70 percent.

In Europe, the 40,000 December operations represented a 13 percent decline from 2019. While most European airports reported declines in business aviation activity for the month, some saw year-over-year increases, including Moscow's Vnukovo (12 percent) and Istanbul's Ataturk Airports (40 percent).

Worldwide, lighter jets saw more activity, with midsize on down all seeing improvements over their December 2019 utilization. The Phenom 300 was the most utilized private jet, with sectors flown down by only 3 percent from December 2019. Heavy Jets flew 19 percent fewer segments for the month versus a year earlier, while ultra-long-range jets saw 30 percent fewer flight hours.

"The first half of December was stagnant, but the holiday period demonstrated the enduring demand for business aviation to reach leisure getaway destinations," said WingX managing director Richard Koe. "This is obvious in the Caribbean for the U.S. market. In Europe, the lockdowns have suppressed pent-up demand to a large extent, with the ski season postponed at best. In Russia and Turkey, stronger flight activity suggests that business aviation is filling in gaps left by erosions in scheduled services."