Business Aviation Market Intelligence

Asia-Pacific Business Jet Flight Activity 2021 Annual Review

by Global Sky Team

Asia-Pacific Business Jet Flight Activity 2021 Annual Review

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During 2021 the number of monthly business jet departures in the Asia-Pacific region was between 6,000 and 9,000. The fourth quarter saw steady year-on-year growth of around 20%.

Significant year-on-year growth of 228.70% was seen in April 2021. This was due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, which saw a significant decline in Asia-Pacific business aviation flights between January 2020 and April 2020. In April 2020 there were just 2,281 flights – the lowest for 2020. When compared with the total number of flights in April 2019, April 2021 saw growth of 3.86%. This increase, although modest, is a further indication that we are seeing a shift away from using business or first-class flights on commercial airlines for those that can afford to do so.

India reported a record rise in daily COVID-19 cases in April 2021, and as such, safety and hygiene became the top concern for travelers. The country saw 1168% growth in April 2021 when compared to April 2020. This increase cannot only be attributed to the ultra-rich in India but also those who are pooling all their resources for the fear of not having access to medical treatment on time.

Since the number of flights departing in the Asia-Pacific region saw a gradual recovery in the second half of 2020, year-on-year growth for the second half of 2021 was lower than the first half. Several global events that were postponed in 2020 resumed in 2021, like the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Expo 2020 Dubai. This contributed to the increase in the year-on-year growth rate in the third and the fourth quarters of 2021. October, November, and December, framed around when the Dubai Airshow was held, outperformed the other months in 2021.

The fourth quarter of 2021 saw more business jets flight activity when compared to the previous quarter. Greater China is the only region that experienced negative year-on-year growth for the entire fourth quarter of 2021. This was due to strict COVID-19 travel restrictions. The Chinese government advised citizens to avoid non-essential traveling when the Omicron variant was identified. India continued to grow, but at a slower pace.

Although the total number of departures has not yet bounced back to pre-pandemic levels, the number of flights lasting between 30 minutes to 2 hours increased in 2021 when compared to 2020 and 2019. Most Asia-Pacific countries have closed their borders; hence, flight activity is mostly domestic. The number of departures for flight durations between 30 minutes to 1 hour continued to dominate in the fourth quarter of 2021, followed by durations between 1 hour to 2 hours. In November 2021, the number of departures of flights of more than 5 hours reached an annual peak. Countries such as Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Australia announced that they would reopen their borders in late October or early November. This helped increase the number of flights departing Asia-Pacific lasting more than 5 hours from 531 to 1,148 monthly flights.

With the uncertainty brought by the pandemic, there has been a clear increase in the number of domestic flights, which have grown by 39.59%. The region with the busiest domestic flight activity is Mainland China. Within Mainland China, the most activity was seen with flights between Beijing and Shanghai and between Beijing and Shenzhen. These cities, areas where business activities are most engaged, are ranked the top three for their GDP in Mainland China.

The overall number of departures for the Greater China region fluctuated over the year; nonetheless, the number of flight departures in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Macau were stable year-round. As the Omicron variant was identified in November 2021, the number of November departures had dropped 43.7% compared to October in Mainland China due to stricter COVID-19 prevention regulations.

Since most flights within Mainland China were domestic, flight durations between 1 to 2 hours dominated flights within the Greater China region – similar to the trend seen across Asia-Pacific. Taking flights from Beijing Capital International Airport to Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport and from Shenzhen Bao’an International to Beijing Capital International Airport as examples, the flight duration is 1.67 hours and 2.54 hours, respectively.

Consistent with the monthly departures in the Asia-Pacific region, most cities in this region exhibit similar year-on-year growth trends, with significant growth in April and an overall steady, lower growth rate thereafter. As previously mentioned, people in India with high disposable income have begun to skip commercial flights in favor of business aviation flights. New Delhi became one of the busiest airports in the Asia-Pacific region for business jet flights in the fourth quarter of 2021.

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