Q1 2024 Victor Market Update

The on-demand private jet charter market has emerged from its winter slumber with renewed vigour. As the global economy navigates through uncertainties amidst geopolitical tensions and pivotal upcoming elections, the private jet charter sector is shining against some of the gloomy challenges facing the commercial aviation industry.

If the last three months are anything to go by, it would be fair to assume that this year will be far busier than 2023, meaning it is even more pertinent that private jet users remain up to date with current insights. Against this backdrop, our Q1 update unveils some of the market dynamics and trends shaping the trajectory of not only Victor, but the entire business aviation industry in 2024.

The Bigger Picture

Overall, global business aviation activity experienced a rather sluggish start to the year. For January, the global sector lagged behind last year’s results by 4%, however, the tide turned around mid-February with a spike in activity during the half-term holiday period. For the second week of March, global business jet activity saw a 4% year-on-year increase compared to the same week in 2023. This translates to a 2% year-to-date increase in global business jet activity between 01/01/2024 and 10/03/2024 – closely mirroring our own results.

Surprisingly, Wing X have also recently reported a drastic drop of 11% in private jet activity in France for Week 11 of 2024 compared with last year. We have noted a similar trend in our data with Victor completing 5% fewer flights to France in Q1 of 2024 vs Q1 of 2023. With that said, we have also noted a huge increase in bookings for flights to Portugal (up 60%), Greece (100%), and Spain (50%) – this has likely been spurred on by clients looking to book ahead and enjoy sunnier climes during the Spring and early Summer.

While Europe saw new and emerging trends, the Middle East maintained its robust demand for business aviation during the months of January and February, with departures from Saudi Arabia increasing by 14%, 5% in Qatar, and 10% in Kuwait. In March so far, private jet sectors in the region are 9% ahead of 2023 and a remarkable 80% ahead of March 2019. Notably, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia are leading the charge, with a 4% and 7% year-on-year increase respectively. It seems clear that the UAE is cementing its place as one of the world’s most exciting and emerging business aviation hubs. Major sporting and cultural events, such as the start of the F1 Grand Prix season, have contributed to this impressive growth.

Impact of commercial travel disruptions

For the global travel sector, this January proved that the industry was closer than ever to returning to pre-pandemic levels with commercial air traffic reaching 99.6% of 2019 levels. The return to our old habits has also brought with it a return to busy airport crowds, long queues, and in some cases further travel disruption. This in turn is driving an increasing amount of UHWNI’s towards the private jet charter market.

Taking Germany as an example, where the first three months of 2024 so far have recorded the highest number of strikes in the country in the last 25 years. Primarily impacting Frankfurt Airport (FRA) and Munich Airport (MUC), a total of 1,043 flights were cancelled between 07/02 and 08/02.

Davide Paladino, VP of Sales at Victor provides an example of how events such as these have impacted PJ movements, “When Hamburg Airport (HAM) announced that they would have no departures for a whole day due to security control strikes, I was able to help one of my clients reach their destination by switching the departure out of Luebeck Airport (LBC), which is only about an hour away from HAM. Although it was short notice, the client was able to avoid being left stranded at the main airport, and instead, they gained peace of mind and reassurance that their flight would go ahead. Flexibility is one of the many benefits for our customers when chartering a private jet. It’s a clear example of why they choose to fly privately with us, they are essentially buying themselves time with the added benefit of relieving stress and hassle.”

In anticipation of further disruptions in commercial travel, Victor clients are now proactively securing bookings for major events such as the UEFA Euros in Germany and the Olympics in France. This trend underscores a growing preference for the convenience, flexibility, and reliability offered by private jet travel amidst the backdrop of high-profile international gatherings.

In parallel to this, Victor clients are booking much further ahead, a trend which has only become more exacerbated since the end of the pandemic. This time last year, Victor clients were booking their flights, on average, 45 days before their departure date. However, from what we’ve seen in 2024 so far, people are now booking on average 51 days in advance, resulting in a 10% average increase.

Victor Trends

In the early months of this year, we’ve witnessed a remarkable upswing in leisure-oriented private jet utilization compared to the same period last year. With renowned ski havens across Europe experiencing their third consecutive week of snowfall and boasting snow depths exceeding 4 meters on the highest slopes in Austria, France, and Switzerland, there has been an increasing demand from private jet flyers seeking to indulge in Europe’s Spring Skiing frenzy.

Victor clients are not only booking further ahead, but they are also prioritising newer, more fuel-efficient aircraft. We remain the only private jet charter company that discloses the estimated fuel burn of a trip before the booking process. We also always highlight the most sustainable option within our quotes and provide real images of the aircraft to help guide our clients towards the best options.

In doing this, we’ve noticed that the popularity of the Pilatus PC-24 has skyrocketed to the detriment of older models such as the Citation CJ2’s and Hawker 400XP’s. So far this year the Pilatus PC-24 (70% increase) and the Citation XLS (35% increase) have gained the most popularity when compared with the same period in 2023.

Group Charter

With large corporates, music groups and sports teams also looking to avoid commercial travel disruption, our Group Charter department has seen a huge increase in demand. Our dedicated team – which has played a pivotal role in orchestrating some of the most exciting bookings for flights with 18+ passengers, saw a 17% increase in total bookings in Q1 – (37% of which have come from new clients).

On 2024 so far, Tom Hill, Director of Commercial Jet Sales at Victor said, “It has been a promising start to the year for the Group Charter team. We have already had some exciting opportunities to oversee operations to diverse locations such as Bogota, Columbia, Al Ula in Saudi Arabia, and Aurangabad in India.”

The second quarter is usually a bustling period for our Group charter department, and we expect this year to be no different. With upcoming movements for major sporting events in both Europe and the Caribbean, we can expect the team to be all hands on deck before the peak travel season officially begins.

Looking towards the summer season, there continues to be a scarcity of available aircraft – particularly in the narrow body segment. This scarcity is driven by persistent high demand and the ongoing challenges associated with Pratt & Whitney engines, prompting airlines to seek additional capacity from the ACMI market. Subsequently, this results in a reduced number of aircraft being available for ad-hoc charters.

Highlighting this, Hill explains, “One of our top suppliers in the UK has leased a couple of aircraft out to a large European carrier until the end of summer. This has led to us looking into creative solutions for clients, such as splitting the groups over several smaller regional aircraft.”

Hill continues, “Due to the ‘bounce back’ of demand, since the pandemic, it has been great to see new airlines enter the market. For example, in the UK ‘Ascend Airways’ is due to commence operations shortly and will operate a fleet of Boeing 737-800 & 737-8 Max aircraft from their base in London Gatwick. Once these new airlines are established, it will help increase supply and ultimately lower costs and give customers a greater choice of airlines, which is great.”

Sustainable Aviation Fuel Developments

In the first quarter of 2024, we not only saw a significant uptick in SAF bookings from our clients, but also noticed that the wider market and media had also shown enthusiasm towards our market-leading climate action initiatives. Encouragingly, both January and February saw more than double the amount of SAF bookings compared with November 2023.

Shortly after celebrating 400 SAF bookings, our co-CEO Toby Edwards, was welcomed on stage for the first Sustainability Live Net Zero event in London. For this event, we were able to highlight how in many ways, Victor and Neste’s ‘Pay Here, Use There’ model has already paved the way for other businesses in both the private and commercial aviation sectors. It has been especially encouraging, thanks to the voluntary contributions of our clients, to be able to highlight our recent achievements not only at industry events but also in the wider media.

Earlier in the month, Victor co-CEO Toby Edwards was able to highlight the importance of sustainable aviation fuel on Monocle Radio. Meanwhile, Dan Cook, Sales Director at Victor, was able to highlight our initiatives in a piece for the Sunday Times.

What to expect in Q2 2024

Economists appear optimistic about the state of the global economy in 2024, (a change of tune following forecasts of a ‘catastrophic global recession’). With central banks around the world expected to lower borrowing costs further and global inflation easing from the multi-decade highs of the past two years, there is reason to feel optimistic about the on-demand jet charter market. Moves such as these are expected to positively impact loan costs for private jet operators and subsequently stabilise charter prices.

At the end of 2023 last year, IATA reported that Eastern and Central Europe showed the most remarkable air travel market expansions of any other region with Albania, Armenia, and Serbia taking the lead in terms of total passenger growth. While these trends have not yet been reflected in our own results, our Sales Team have noted a rise in demand for luxury holidays in Montenegro, Croatia, and Turkey. With the summer season approaching we expect to see more bookings coming for these regions as people look for an alternative to the usual stomping grounds in the Western Mediterranean.

Have you noticed any recent changes in your experience with the on-demand private jet charter market?

As we aim to provide our clients and members with fully transparent and honest updates on the charter market, we welcome any feedback or additional information from alternative perspectives. Our office is open 24/7 and we remain fully available for further insight or in case you wish to explore the charter market for an upcoming trip.

For more information please email Sales@flyvictor.com