While business aviation levels in the U.S. have rebounded to near-normal levels in the wake of the Covid pandemic, that traffic still isn’t going very far afield, amid continued international restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of the virus, even as vaccination programs slowly ramp up around the world. As evidence, according to JetNet, large-cabin jet activity was down 36 percent between 2020 and 2019, while in the second quarter of 2020 those levels plunged by 65 percent.
“It is disappointing to see the Covid relapse in Europe as 2021 has progressed, which has dampened the positive expectations that we had about the recovery,” explained John-Angus Smith, Signature Flight Support’s managing director for EMEA (Europe, Middle East, Africa). “We continue to see little traffic from outside of EMEA which is reflected in more resilience from the light and mid-size charter aircraft traffic, with our expectation that heavy jet traffic will return when trans-Atlantic travel opens up.”
That decline in international traffic has affected FBOs from Amsterdam to Australia, which have had to adapt to the situation. “We carried out a review of the staffing levels and operational hours worked,” noted Carly Swetman, general manager of the London Jet Centre at London Stansted Airport. “We decided to decrease the fixed operational hours for the FBO, but increased [our] short-notice flexibility to accommodate the ever-changing demands of our aircraft clients and operators,” a move she added, that has been appreciated during these unprecedented times.
Jaiyavat Navaraj, chairman of Thailand-based MJets FBO was faced with an 80 percent drop in traffic year over year at Bangkok’s Don Mueang International Airport. “We managed to cut off all frills and become leaner to sustain the drastic drop of revenue,” he told AIN. One of the first facilities last year to institute temperature screenings of everyone entering the facility, it has, like most, focused on hygiene and disinfection, with Navaraj noting he believes the wearing of surgical masks will be a part of the operation for years to come.
As borders began to reopen after the initial phase of the pandemic, some areas that were relatively sheltered from it began to notice trends. “Due to the fact that Sardinia was by far better off in terms of Covid-19 cases versus any other location in Italy, many owners of prestigious properties in Sardinia preferred to stay longer than ever before,” said Francesco Cossu, general manager of Eccelsa Aviation at Olbia Costa Smeralda Airport. Likewise the loosening of regulations “attracted a lot of European passengers willing to spend some safe holidays in Portugal, one of the most spared countries during the pandemic,” explained Omni Handling CEO Ricardo Periera.
“One trend we noticed was a definite pickup of both charter and FBO business every time a border was opened” said ExecuJet Asia-Pacific v-p Darren McGoldrick. “It was interesting to see clients who had never regularly traveled to remote destinations jump at the chance to get out and fly, seemingly just because they were now allowed to.”