Pond Dipping

posted on 8th October 2019

ARGUS-provided TRAQPak data for transatlantic business aviation flights between North America and Europe comparing 2008/2009 and 2018/19 suggest stabilisation, but the industry must evolve for a successful, sustainable future

One difficult decade ago, business aviation was reeling in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis. ARGUS TRAQPak data shows that compared to an already wobbly January 2008, 2009 flights between North America and Europe in the same month were down 23%. Look at June, the busiest flying month and the reduction was just 12%, while December, the slowest month for flights, shows just 3% fewer trips in 2009. In terms of flying, the industry was perhaps not reeling as much as memory would have us believe.

ARGUS TRAQPak Data: North America to Europe

January 2008 to December 2009

2008                                                                            2009

Month Flights Hours Flights Hours
January 807 5,045.44 619 4,090.82
February 724 4,678.54 476 3,260.75
March 682 4,538.28 576 3,830.12
April 716 4,921.90 608 4,038.17
May 994 6,700.95 827 5,341.53
June 1,107 7,374.28 979 6,293.15
July 875 5,840.45 724 4,696.57
August 709 4,624.15 656 4,216.82
September 941 5,974.83 852 5,539.09
October 789 5,027.46 803 5,149.03
November 670 4,385.80 639 4,028.53
December 538 3,490.25 521 3,456.69
Total 9,552 62,602.33   8,280 53,941.27

 

ARGUS TRAQPak Data: North America to Europe

January 2018 to June 2019

2018                                                                            2019

Month Flights Hours Flights Hours  
January 663 4,617.87 587 4,138.50  
February 501 3,504.87 569 4,072.92  
March 680 4,840.83 707 4,915.27  
April 737 5,158.02 676 4,712.55  
May 957 6,706.22 987 7,007.79  
June 1,241 8,895.44 1,277 9,151.68  
Total to June 4,779 33,723.25   4,803 33,998.71  
July 946 6,688.14  
August 829 5,724.49
September 1,016 6,902.07
October 932 6,250.07
November 741 5,162.49
December 572 3,900.10
Total 9,815 68,350.61        

 

Leap forward ten years and market health in 2018/19 depends on point of view. Compared to 2008, business aircraft traffic from North America to Europe was down every month until May. But June marked a 12% increase on 2008, with superior figures for the remainder of the year. Data for 2019 was available to June at the time of writing and showed a small uptick for the month compared to 2018 and 170 more flights overall than 2018. Meanwhile, January to May 2019 perhaps reflect global uncertainty, with figures fluctuating month-to-month compared to 2018, but generally up on 2009 and down on 2008, although the annual total for 2018 was up on 2008.

Some in the industry have suggested that the boom years prior to 2008 provide an unsustainable industry view and we should expect a new norm as the market stabilises. Speak to charter brokers, operators and folk selling used and new inventory and they’ll all say the market is ‘soft’ or difficult, but might it actually be moving into a new normality?

The ARGUS TRAQPak data comparing the same years in the opposite direction, from Europe to North America, tell a similar story but, remarkably, with exactly the same number of flights in 2018 as there were in 2008. Flights to June are up this year compared to 2018, suggesting the eastbound transatlantic market may be expanding.

ARGUS TRAQPak Data: Europe to North America

January 2008 to December 2009

2008                                                                            2009

Month Flights Hours Flights Hours
January 762 6,509.05 526 4,652.01
February 738 6,234.82 510 4,468.13
March 687 5,819.22 534 4,723.54
April 747 6,361.60 581 4,959.75
May 952 8,144.89 773 6,707.62
June 1,079 9,668.30 848 7,338.36
July 977 8,701.47 742 6,602.89
August 747 6,794.71 609 5,682.53
September 830 7,464.19 757 6,511.89
October 780 6,962.99 819 7,163.53
November 684 6,047.45 649 5,846.74
December 530 4,741.00 511 4,391.61
Total 9,513 83,449.69   7,859 69,048.60

 

ARGUS TRAQPak Data: Europe to North America

January 2018 to June 2019

2018                                                                            2019

Month Flights Hours Flights Hours  
January 561 4,547.72 568 4,567.56  
February 434 3,653.26 552 4,360.05  
March 709 5,316.86 675 5,236.30  
April 662 5,166.64 668 5,026.20  
May 875 6,705.82 853 6,169.62  
June 1,092 8,120.27 1,123 8,334.30  
Total to June 4,333 33,510.57   4,439 33,694.03  
July 1,044 7,891.68
August 794 6,098.69
September 970 7,330.39
October 1,005 7,791.01
November 755 5,892.89
December 612 4,630.56
Total 9,513 73,145.79        

 

The data show a continued appetite for flights, with good reason to be optimistic, but change, perhaps uncomfortable change, may be around the corner. Customers are becoming more likely to charter when they fly, rather than own an aircraft, but there are multiple charter models, many delivering comparable products, ultimately through the same portals, and it’s difficult to imagine all of them surviving.

Meanwhile, the OEMs are competing for sales in often congested market segments and innovation seems likely the only way to win sales. Just as consolidation in the charter market seems possible, so it may not come as a surprise among the OEMs, although the equation based on aftersales support, technical innovation, investment, new models and used stock is rather more complex.

Perhaps most important of all, the industry needs to work on its further responsibility not only for a sustainable future but also for offsetting damage already done. Even a stable market is only sustainable so long as people choose to fly. There is ample justification for private aviation, yet the industry fails to communicate its activity to the public at large and could, through its technological excellence, begin speaking to the world about sustainable flight, instead of looking inward at its own environmental impact.

Tomorrow’s passengers are more likely to charter, and they’ll be from a different generation. They’ll look to environmentally responsible companies for their flying needs, chartering from responsible operators flying aircraft built by energy-conscious, carbon-offsetting OEMs. On that basis alone, it would be interesting to glance into the crystal ball of 2028/29’s ARGUS TRAQPak data.