Business aviation flight activity in North America is at or near all-time highs and is expected to approach or exceed 300,000 monthly operations in July, August, and October and surpass 2019 levels by nearly 10 percent through the remainder of the year, according to aviation data and safety specialist Argus.
In its 2021 Mid-year Business Aviation Review, Argus noted that “after last year’s record lows, we’ve seen multiple record highs through the first six months, with Part 135 activity setting flight activity records in March, May, and June.”
Argus TraqPak data—which tracks aircraft arrival and departure information on all IFR business jet and turboprop flights in the U.S., Canada, and the Caribbean—recorded a slow beginning of the year, with activity declining 10 to 12 percent from both 2019 and 2020 levels. But that turned in March when flight activity jumped 46.3 percent over 2020, and it since has improved every month compared with 2020 and even 2019. June marked the largest increase from 2019, up 12.1 percent in flight activity.
Year-to-date, flight activity is up 42.4 percent from 2020, while flight hours are up 42.8 percent. With the slower months early on, year-to-date flight activity is still down 1.2 percent from 2019, but flight hours are up 0.3 percent.
Part 91, which has lagged in recovery, came in at a 34.1 percent improvement in the first half of 2020, Argus said, adding, “This is a welcome change after the unprecedented 34.3 percent decline in Part 91 activity from 2019 to 2020.” Fractional activity improved 58.3 percent from 2020 and was up 9.4 percent from 2019. Meanwhile, Part 135 flight activity is up 47.4 percent from 2020 and up 9.6 percent from 2019.
The top 25 operators—led by Wheels Up, XOJet, Executive Jet Management, Jet Linx, and Exclusive Jets—all surpassed 2020 numbers in the first half of the year.
Operations are up over 2020 through all aircraft categories led by midsize jets at 34 percent followed by light jets at 32.2 percent. But large jet operations also have recovered, improving 27.9 percent.
Going forward, Argus sees the market gaining further strength. As the Part 91 and long-haul markets begin to recover, Argus expects business aviation activity to consistently remain 5 to 10 percent above pre-pandemic levels and up by 32.7 percent over 2020. As operations approach 300,000 in July, Argus predicted peaks in August and October that surpass that demarcation and noted that this would be a first for its TraqPak database, which dates back to January 2007.