Sound familiar? It’s one of the 20 phrases found on the white icosahedral block inside every fortune-telling Magic 8-Ball. While I might consult the 8-Ball for fun, when it comes to forecasting the future of business aviation, I prefer to consult augurs who rely more on facts than toys.
Experts like Argus, whose TRAQPak data indicated that business turbine aircraft flight activity was up more than 5% over August, the second consecutive month of 5%+ growth. Much of that increase can be attributed to charter flying, up 11.8%, and fractional activity, up 3.6%, primarily in the large- and mid-size jet categories.
And Argus is not alone – hourly cost maintenance provider Jet Support Services, Inc. (JSSI) has seen its client flight activity up 4.5 % through the first nine months of 2017 compared with 2016, according to its Business Flight Index. Average flight activity in 3Q 2017 reached its highest level since late 2008, when business aviation flight and sales activity began its precipitous slide.
Yes, you’ll be flying more – and buying more. The market intelligence company Teal Group is now forecasting that new business aircraft deliveries will grow over the next decade, getting back to that 2008 peak in 2021. And Teal believes that more than 70% of those new deliveries will be mid-size to large cabin aircraft, thanks to more international flying.
What’s driving this resurgence in business turbine aircraft flying? I’ve watched flight activity mirror market conditions for more than four decades – the economy goes up, and so does bizjet buying and flying. But this time we’re definitely getting some help from unexpected – and unlikely – quarters.
It seems that the scheduled airlines have reversed field: rather than making commercial air travel more comfortable, it’s less so, making business aircraft flying even more appealing. American Airlines’ 737-800s will be refurbished to fit twelve more passengers, and its Airbus A321s as many as nine more. The goal is to increase revenue per flight, at the expense of passenger comfort. Now, that may not have much of an impact on first class comfort, but it does mean those aircraft will require more time to board and disembark.
And you’ll soon need more time to board 2,000 international flights arriving daily from 280 airports in 105 countries. The Department of Homeland Security is adding as much as 90 minutes to the time required to clear security before boarding those flights. These new procedures are the result of new TSA measures enacted last summer, and include short security interviews, as well as stricter checks on mobile phones, tablets, and laptops, unless you’re a member of its PreCheck program.
Business is good, thanks to a growing economy. And business flying looks better than ever, thanks to the growing inconvenience of commercial airline travel.
Thanks for reading!
Publisher of Business Aviation Advisor, has nearly 50 years in business aviation including executive positions at aircraft management/charter and ground services companies. He is a past director of the NATA and Corporate Angel Network.