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During the first month of 2022, business jet flight activity in the Asia-Pacific region still faced challenges brought on by COVID-19. Days after identifying the highly transmissible Omicron variant in South Africa, many countries postponed their plans to open their borders. Business jet flight activity in January 2022 decreased by 16.2% from the previous month. In addition to pandemic related restrictions, fewer global events scheduled in January also contributed to the decline in activity. As the World Health Organization acquired more information about the new variant, countries enhanced their current vaccination programs. Based on the data provided by the health department of each government, countries like India only had around 30% of its citizens completely vaccinated before the occurrence of Omicron but had reached a 60% full-vaccination rate by the end of March 2022. Many Asia-Pacific countries were more willing to reopen their borders as more people completed the vaccination process and thus business jet departures increased by 15.6% to 5,478 flights in March. Although the average monthly flights in the first quarter of 2022 were lower than the previous quarter, flights in March 2022 outperformed all other months.
However, flight activity has been overall increasing, and reached a peak of 248 flights on March 25. Flight activity in late March outperformed pre-pandemic levels as people hoped to stimulate economies by increasing business activities and leisure travel began to return. The lowest trough occurred on December 31, 2021, similar to the situation seen in 2020, which may be related to the new year celebrations.
Greater China and India saw the most departures; however, the year on-year growth has been negative for Greater China and is declining in India. Mainland China’s zero-COVID policy imposed strict quarantine procedures and paused the issuance of ordinary passports for non essential travelling, which caused the negative year-on-year seen in Greater China. India’s flight activity in the first quarter of 2021 grew significantly due to outbound flights for healthcare resources; hence, compared to 2021, flight activity in the first quarter of 2022 were less active. Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand all have positive year -over-year growth in the first quarter of 2022, as their airports were open with some restrictions. Overall, these countries are engaging in similar tourism activities as they were before the pandemic. With the vaccination rate increasing, governments are more willing to loosen COVID-19 related restrictions and therefore saw a rebound in their local economies. Japan experienced less significant year-over-year growth in January and February. Later, it allowed entry to non Japanese citizens except for tourism purposes starting on March 1st, 2022. The measure stimulated flight activity and fostered business recovery in Japan.
Flight durations between 30 minutes to two hours remained the most popular in the Asia Pacific region. The period to-date growth for flights that had a duration of more than five hours in the first quarter of 2022 was 24.5%. In addition to total flight activity increasing, the proportion of international business jet trips also expanded. It showed that consumers were more confident in flying to other countries, while still having some concerns regarding safety. Thus, people that can afford business jet trips would choose to do so. With trips ranging from one to two hours having the largest share and international flights increasing, it suggests that people are most likely to travel to nearby countries.
Although Greater China saw a sharp decline in activity from November 2021, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Macao were all steady during the first quarter of 2022. Pandemic-related policies caused a continuous decrease in activities in mainland China. Once these restrictions are removed, it is likely that the market will become positive again.
According to the Embassy of India, the Indian population accounts for 30% of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) total population, and 15% of Indian immigrants are professionals and businesspeople. Hence, jet connections between these two countries are mainly for business and family visits. In February 2022, India signed a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement with the UAE to enhance non-oil trade between the two countries with hopes to open more opportunities for investment and trading. The agreement further enhances the business jet activities between India and the UAE.
After two and a half years of negotiations, Indonesia and Singapore signed three agreements to resolve the longstanding issues regarding airspace management, defense cooperation and extradition on January 25th, 2022. This further increased business jet activity between these two countries. The number of flights departing from Singapore and arriving in Indonesia jumped from 59 flights in March 2021 to 74 in March 2022.
Domestic connections dominated the busiest routes in the Asia Pacific region, especially in India. It is also worth noting that an eighth of the jet activity in mainland China are dedicated to training and maintenance purposes.
Bombardier remained the most popular Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) in the Asia-Pacific region. Its Global series models are widely used since they are in the Long Range category that can support international travel. Gulfstream, another OEM known for its Long Range models, ranked second with 21 fewer flights. Together, models manufactured by these two OEMs accounted for 45% of the business jet activity in the Asia-Pacific region in the first quarter of 2022. Pilatus’ aircraft only accounted for four flights in the first quarter of 2021. As people engage in domestic travel, the demand for Very Light Jets has increased.
Top City Flight Activity Trends
Jet activity in New Delhi, Bangkok, Singapore and Manila has seen a steady increase since January 2022. Airports in these cities now allow non Citizens to enter the country without strict quarantine if they are fully vaccinated. Governments are now taking steps to rebound their economies. India saw the greatest number of flights in the first quarter of 2022, with a large portion being domestic hops. The overall business jet market showed a positive sign of recovery.
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