April proves ‘the cruellest month’ for business aviation

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Coronavirus Disease 2019 Rotator Graphic for af.mil. (U.S. Air Force Graphic by Rosario "Charo" Gutierrez)

“April is the cruellest month,” wrote Nobel Prize-winning American-born poet TS Elliot in his landmark poem The Waste Land, published in 1922. With uncanny accuracy, he also foretold the cruellest month for business aviation nearly 100 years later, as governments around the world rushed to close their airspace in a bid to halt the global rampage of Covid-19.

The plunge in business flight activity was simply staggering. While repatriation and emergency flights provided a temporary fillip, April witnessed a 70% fall in global business activity, according to WINGX. Demonstrating comforting consistency, TRAQPak data from Argus suggests a 71.5% fall in North American business flight activity in April 2020 compared with the same month of 2019.

If April was the cruellest month, which is likely to be the kindest? Perhaps, October 2020. That is the month which will reveal the true impact of Covid-19 on business aviation – at least in the pre-eminent North American market, according to Travis Kuhn, Vice President of Market Intelligence, Argus during a recent webinar.

October is typically the busiest month in the North American market due to it having the best weather, the only month when all six professional sports leagues are in season and the only 31-day month without a major holiday. Added to that, the US election is scheduled for the first week in November, which usually boosts traffic in preceding weeks.

Hopefully, business aviation flight hours will bloom in October in North America and around the world. Perhaps predictions of a wave of new clients craving the safety of private jet cabins as opposed to the airlines – running much reduced services – will prove to be true. For if business flight hours during the month exceed those of October 2019, then business aviation is set fair for 2021, the argument goes. If it withers, a darker story may unfold.

Crucially, will the new business from first-time private aircraft flyers exceed or offset the business lost due to the economic downturn caused by Covid-19? Much depends on the answer to that key question. Here’s to a busy October.

Meanwhile, have a great, safe weekend and enjoy these timeless lines from a giant of Anglo-American literature.

“April is the cruellest month, breeding
lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
memory and desire, stirring
dull roots with spring rain.”

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