Despite softer demand in the commercial aviation space, the forecast for corporate jets remains somewhat strong. According to new survey data compiled by Honeywell Aerospace, a company that builds engines and a wide range of other aircraft parts, demand for corporate jets should recover to 80-85% of pre-pandemic levels in the fourth quarter of 2020, a strong recovery coming out of a relatively soft summer.
The data comes as part of a broad, annual survey that Honeywell conducts to gauge the demand for corporate jets. This year’s data gives unique insight into that demand as the economy recovers from the long term effects of a sustained, worldwide pandemic.
On the commercial side of the equation, passenger demand and traffic has dropped precipitously, leading to a wave of grounded aircraft and many orders canceled or put into holding patterns. In April, Boeing’s backlog contracted by 300 aircraft as cancellations surged. That same month, Airbus cut production.
While flight volumes and demand remain low in the commercial space, the forecast for recovery in the respective airframe industry also continues to slip. According to the Financial Times and Boeing, it may take up to three years for that industry and the subsequent orders to recover.
Corporate jet demand, by contrast, appears to have only suffered a minor setback. According to the survey conducted by Honeywell, while 82% of survey respondents plan to operate current equipment less often than in 2019 — an obvious effect of the pandemic — 4 in 5 respondents also said that the current economy doesn’t affect their buying plans. Five-year purchase plans are also down only one percent versus the same survey conducted last year. Honeywell also expects that corporate jet deliveries will be up 13% from 2020 numbers.
“The information we gleaned from operators shows a less than 1% decline in five-year purchase plans, so despite the short-term effects of the pandemic, we don’t expect long-term changes to purchase plans or to the overall health of the business jet market,” said Heath Patrick, president, Americas Aftermarket, Honeywell Aerospace.
Part of the discrepancy in demand in corporate versus commercial jets may simply be due to the operating environment for each sector. While several studies have shown that commercial air travel is relatively safe despite the pandemic, many travelers are simply waiting on the sidelines for a vaccine before they resume their routines. Private travel, by contrast, can continue relatively unhindered as travelers work through separate, secluded terminals and aircraft free from congestion.
Regardless of that benefit, the Honeywell survey does reflect the caution that even the private market is seeing, with 82% of respondents admittedly flying less this year. Until a robust solution the pandemic is established, air travel across the board may stay soft.