Business jets flew 3.3 million flights worldwide in 2021, the most on record for a single year and 7 percent more than the previous high point in 2019, according to WingX’s Global Market Tracker. The year finished strong, with the number of flights worldwide in December jumping 23 percent over that month's 2019 total. In the holiday period from December 20 to January 2, the number of flights reached 127,000, a 41 percent increase over the comparable period two years ago, WingX reported.
In North America, business jet flights were up by 6 percent over 2019's total. The U.S. drove this increase with activity that was 10 percent higher. Flights in Canada, by contrast, were down 24 percent from 2019 levels.
Fractional and branded charter saw a surge in activity, up 20 and 18 percent, respectively, from 2019. Private and corporate flight departments are modestly recovering but still managed to surpass 2019 levels, WingX said.
In the U.S., flight activity in the light jet segment alone increased by 15 percent compared with 2019, accounting for almost one million flying hours and 662,000 sectors flown. The super-midsize segment was up 18 percent, but ultra-long-range aircraft—which remained behind pre-pandemic levels through the first half of 2021—had inched ahead in numbers of flights by the end of the year. Flight hours were still down, though.
Business jet activity in Europe also surpassed 2019 levels, with sectors up 5 percent by year-end. The holiday period saw a 30 percent increase from pre-pandemic levels. However, demand remained down from 2019 in Europe’s three largest markets—France, Germany, and the UK. Italy and Spain, however, saw rebounds, as did Russia and Turkey. Very light jet flights helped spur overall growth throughout Europe, up 22 percent from 2019.
The rest of the world, while a small minority of the global total, saw 28 percent more business jet flights last year than in 2019. The United Arab Emirates witnessed a 73 percent increase over 2019.
“Business aviation flourished in 2021, with a very strong rebound in demand from Q2 onwards, characterized by leisure demand, unleashed as travel restrictions loosened,” said WingX managing director Richard Koe. “The prolonged slump in scheduled airline capacity, and the persistent hygiene concerns around new virus variants, appear to have migrated business aviation services to many new customers," he noted. "The resilience of the rebound in 2021 will be tested in early 2022 by the travel behavior of business executives.”