Report: 2021 Was The Busiest Year In History for Global Business Jet Activity

WingX says things really started to tick upward during the second quarter and a strong holiday season helped push things over the top.

A new report says 2021 was the busiest year on record for global business jet activity.

The report released Thursday by WingX, a data research and consulting company that tracks the business aviation industry, says 3.3 million business jet flights took place in 2021. That’s a 7 percent increase over 2019, the year the report used as the most recent “normal” benchmark. 

WingX says the tide began to turn in the second quarter of 2021 as people returned to leisure travel amid vaccine rollouts and shrinking travel restrictions. The report also suggests that while airline travel has experienced a bit of a comeback, worries over hygiene and exposure to new COVID variants encouraged people to switch to business travel.

Happy Holidays

December saw the largest gain over 2019 in global business jet activity—a 23 percent increase. In fact, for the holiday period from December 20 to January 2, WingX says 127,000 business jet flights took off around the world, a 41 percent jump over the holiday season two years ago.

For perspective, global airline passenger traffic in December was down 28 percent during the same time period.

In North America, the U.S. leads the way

In North America, the U.S. remained the leader of business jet activity in 2021, recording 10 percent more traffic than all of 2019. Meanwhile, Canada’s private aviation traffic shrank by nearly a quarter. The report explains that the adoption of fractional and charter flights drove the U.S. expansion. Fractional traffic grew by 20 percent and charter operations by 18 percent compared to 2019.

Not surprisingly, the holiday period saw the most activity in the U.S., reflecting the global increase noted previously. While airline traffic was 16 percent shy of its 2019 numbers, business jets flew 46 percent more trips compared to the same period.

Business jet departures in the United States, 2017-2021 [Courtesy: WingX]

How are people flying?

  •  Light jets made 662,000 flights in 2021, 15 percent more than in 2019.
  • Super midsize jets made 179,000 flights last year, which was 18 percent more than two years before.
  • Bombardier’s Challenger 300 was the most used bizjet model in 2021, making 179,000 trips, 12 percent more than in 2019.
  • Ultra-long-range trips saw a 7 percent dip from 2019, while heavy jets flew 43 percent fewer trips.

Very Light Jets Shine in Europe

Despite Europe’s slower economic rebound, the WingX report says operators flew their business jets 5 percent more in 2021 than they did two years ago. As it was in the U.S., travel also peaked during the holiday season, with a 30 percent uptick over the same period in 2019. 

Spain and Italy recorded the strongest rebound, which WingX attributes to leisure traffic. Countries with fewer travel restrictions—such as Russia and Turkey—saw their domestic flights grow nearly 25 percent. 

The equipment driving the rebound was in the very light jet sector, which saw 22 percent more usage than 2019.

UAE Also Sees Strong Growth

Outside of North America and Europe—where there’s typically less business travel—200,000 business jet trips took place. While that’s only 6 percent of the worldwide market, the number represents a 30 percent increase more than 2019. Nearly 1 in 3 trips were taken using pre-owned business jets. 

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