Business aviation could recover in the next year to 18 months, according to a white paper published this week by the Argus group that outlines a return to prominence for business aviation well ahead of airlines recapturing passengers. Citing the ability to be flexible and for passengers to better control social distancing, the paper predicts that the recovery of business flying will happen sooner rather than later, though the outlook has plenty of question marks.
“As states have already begun opening in the U.S. we have seen activity almost double from our April lows and the current trends show us reaching 73% of normal in June and 83% of normal in July and August,” the paper says. “If the August forecast holds then we will see approximately 225,000 business aviation flights in North America for the month. That is off from the 2019 monthly average of 260,000 but it would represent a 300% increase from our April low of 74,771 flights.” According to separate data from FlightAware, business aviation has actually had one day this year with more flights than on the same day last year; for the most part, traffic has been a small fraction of what it was in 2019.
Admitting that the longer-range implications of COVID-19 hold the possibility of an economic recession, the Argus paper says “… all bets are off on exactly what our recovery will look like” but that it’s tied to the stock market. “As the dust begins to settle we will gain more clarity on what our industry will look like in the coming months. However, if the short term trends are any indication, we will probably return to 15% – 20% of normal in July and August with activity showing a closer correlation to the ease of quarantine and stay at home orders. That should change as we enter late summer and early fall with a better understanding of the financial impact and this is where we can expect flight activity to become more sensitive to what is happening on Wall Street. If the financial damage isn’t too bad then our industry should be able to make up the remaining losses over the next 12-18 months. If the financial impact turns out to be deeper then we will be looking at a slower rise for that last 15% – 20%,” the report says.