North American Business Jet Travel Shows Modest Gains

The business aviation market has long suffered from mixed messages and good news/bad news trends — and this year is no different. The market seems to be experiencing a moderate growth trend as indicated by recent travel statistics posted by aviation analyst firms (USB Investment Research and Argus), and yet activity in Europe declined year over year. Taking the microscope to the European data shows that intra-Europe flights dipped, but domestic activity was up in Germany, the UK, and Switzerland even while business jet activity in the Ukraine turned sharply negative.

According to aviation services company Argus, business jet flying in North America has climbed 1.9% since last May. Jet flying increased, with light jets pushing to the head of the pack last month (a 4.7% increase). Large-cabin jet activity is also strong, climbing 4.3%, and mid-size jet flying recorded a 2.3% increase. And of course, in the typical good/bad news trend, turboprop flying slipped by 1.6% from a year ago perhaps due, at least in part, to Avantair’s demise.

UBS reported that charter activity — which accounts for one-third of the seasonal cycles in flying — remains a “growth driver” and climbed 13% over last year. Meanwhile, non-charter cycles were roughly the same since last year. Business jet flying is now about 30% above the 2009 slowdown and largely being driven by the utilization of young (i.e., less than five years old) jets, a trend that has seen a 75% surge in activity from the 2009 low.

The FAA says Embraer leads the pack with an increase of 8%, as far as which manufacturer’s business jet is most often flown. Tied at 3% were Bombadier, Cessna, Dassault, and Hawker. Trailing behind was Gulfstream, whose aircraft were used just 1% more than they were early last year.

Ultimately, industry experts agree that a sustained recovery of business jet use is needed to drive the new aircraft cycle. Currently, the market remains in a condition of oversupply and will remain there until a more meaningful recovery occurs.

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