Forecast: August Bizav Activity Could Rise 300% From April Lows

Credit: Nigel Howarth/AW&ST

As the business aviation industry entered the new decade, Argus International analysts had been expecting North America flight activity to finally break 10,000 flights one weekday in 2020. 

Forecasts predicted growth for the first six months of 2020, with fractional activity strengthening. 

Then came the COVID-19 pandemic.

“In the blink of an eye, our industry was shuttered as operators were ceasing flights due to lack of demand,” Argus noted. Activity during the  first five months of 2020 has been down compared to 2019.

Now, “our industry is finally clearing for takeoff,” Argus said.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, business aviation activity hit a record low in February 2009 during last recession. But activity fell below that mark each month in March, April and May. March activity fell 31% year-over-year, April activity declined 71% from a year ago, while May activity fell 49% year-over-year. Still, May activity was up 84% over April numbers. June is looking just as strong, Argus said. 

With the easing of quarantine and stay-at-home orders, Argus predicts activity to return to 15% - 20% of normal in July and August. 

If its August forecast holds, business aviation flights should reach about 225,000 flights in North America for the month, Argus said.  That is down from the 2019 monthly average of 260,000 flights, but it would represent a 300% increase from the April low of 74,771 flights.

“Seeing as we entered this global pandemic and will most likely emerge in some sort of recession all bets are off on exactly what our recovery will look like,” Argus said. “However, we do know what a recession looks like for business aviation and it is heavily tied to Wall Street. As the dust begins to settle, we will gain more clarity on what our industry will look like in the coming months.” 

If the financial damage isn’t too bad, then the business aviation industry should make up remaining losses over the next 12-18 months it said. 

“If the financial impact turns out to be deeper, then we will be looking at a slower rise for the last 15% - 20%,” Argus said. “Either way, we live in a global, connected world and business aviation will be vital to our recovery. As we face down this new, unforeseen challenge, our industry will rise to the occasion and it will play a key role.” 


Molly McMillin

Molly McMillin, a 25-year aviation journalist, is managing editor of business aviation for the Aviation Week Network and editor-in-chief of The Weekly of Business Aviation, an Aviation Week market intelligence report.