The size of Europe’s business jet fleet is shrinking and likely to remain diminished for another year as slow new aircraft sales combine with the continued outflow of used jets to deflate fleet numbers, says aviation consultant Brian Foley.
During the past 12 months, 50 European business jets—about 2% of the total fleet—were sold to buyers on other continents. Outside Europe, the fleets have grown an overall 3%, says Foley, with the vast majority, 79%, going to buyers in North America, mostly in the U.S. and Canada.
Africa, the region with the second highest demand for used business jets, accounted for 7% of last year’s sales.
The number of aircraft on the market does not bode well for a prompt recovery, notes Foley. Almost one European business jet in five—19%—is up for sale, more than one-third higher than the worldwide for-sale average of 14%.
The average age of aircraft sold is 12 years, exactly matching the overall European fleet age.
Foley says the world’s used jet buyers have been shopping in Europe, where high supply keeps prices down. Another factor is Europe’s weakening currency, which favors outside buyers. “This underscores the seriousness of Europe’s [economic] crisis,” notes Foley.
Conventional wisdom accepts that European new aircraft sales will lag until the used inventory shrinks, but Foley disagrees. “There is no cause-and-effect relationship because, generally speaking, new and pre-owned [aricraft] buyers are totally different groups,” says the consultant. “Our experience shows that those who buy new will almost invariably continue buying new in order to get the latest model that is truly personalized to their requirements and not ‘tainted’ by the tastes of a previous owner.”
Conversely, he adds, used aircraft buyers tend to be more value-driven and flexible with the aircraft. “With a sufficiently improving economy, both types of buyers will return; that’s my thesis,” he says. “A declining pre-owned inventory will not cause new-aircraft sales to surge, but can presage their recovery.”