It’s been roughly two years since the emergence of Covid-19, and recurring waves of the virus are continuing to hit countries hard. Many sectors, including commercial aviation, continue to face a bumpy road to recovery. Business aviation, however, is not one of them — at least based on 2021 numbers.

According to data research and consulting company, WINGX, business jet activity in 2021 was greater than any previous year on record. Despite the emergence of the Delta and Omicron virus variants in 2020 and 2021, respectively, there were 3.3 million business jet flights recorded from January to December, which translates to a seven percent increase in business jet traffic over 2019. What’s more, 2019 was “the previous high point for global business jet demand,” WINGX said in its 2021 review on the global activity of business aviation aircraft.

The WINGX report, released on Jan. 6, says December 2021 saw the highest comparable growth for global bizjet activity, with 23 percent more sectors flown (flights from point A to point B) than December 2019. More specifically, the holiday period (Dec. 20 to Jan. 2) saw business jets fly 127,000 sectors, which is 41 percent more than the same period two years ago.

The bizjet activity data are compared to global scheduled airline passenger traffic, as well as cargo operations. The former saw a 28 percent decline in traffic in December 2021, compared with December 2019. This, according to WINGX, is in line with the full-year trend.

However, global cargo operations “showed similar resilience to business jets during 2021, with dedicated cargo sectors up eight percent compared to 2019,” the report reads.

Business jet sectors flown vs scheduled and cargo activity 2019 – 2021. WINGX Illustration

Richard Koe, managing director of WINGX, said: “Business aviation flourished in 2021, with a very strong rebound in demand from Q2 onwards, characterized by leisure demand, unleashed as travel restrictions loosened.

“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,” continued Koe. “The resilience of the rebound in 2021 will be tested in early 2022 by the travel behavior of business executives.”

Looking at North America, specifically, business jets flew six percent more sectors in 2021, compared with 2019. Increased numbers were driven by demand in the U.S., where bizjet activity was 10 percent higher than 2019. Canada, in comparison, saw 24 percent fewer sectors than two years ago.

WINGX says the strong rebound in business jet demand in the U.S. came from fractional and branded charter operations, up by 20 percent and 18 percent, respectively, for the year, compared with 2019. Private and corporate flight departments saw “a more modest recovery in activity,” but still surpassed 2019 activity by the end of 2021.

During the Dec. 20 to Jan. 2 holiday period, bizjets in the U.S. flew 46 percent more sectors than in 2019, the report reads. Scheduled airline passenger traffic over the 2021 holiday period was not able to catch up to 2019 numbers, with a 16 percent decline.

Business jet departures in the United States, 2017-2021. WINGX Illustration

The busiest jet segment in the U.S. market in 2021 was, not surprisingly, light jets. The light jet segment saw 662,000 sectors flown, nearly one million flying hours operated, and an increase in traffic by 15 percent compared to 2019. The super midsize segment was up 18 percent for 2021, which demonstrates the largest growth in sectors compared to 2019.

Interestingly, WINGX said ultra-long range jet activity “was well behind pre-pandemic levels during 2020 and the first half of 2021, but by the end of the year, sectors flown had nosed ahead of 2019 — even if hours operated were still seven percent down on two years ago.”

The bizjet segment that has not yet seen a robust recovery is heavyweights. “At the top end of the cabin size, bizliners flew 43 percent fewer sectors in 2021 compared to 2019,” the report reads.

The busiest business jet type in 2021 was Bombardier’s Challenger 300, with 179,000 sectors operated. This is up 12 percent on the active fleet in 2019.

For more details on business jet activity in other parts of the world, find WINGX’s 2021 review here.

Courtesy of Skies Magazine