Shifts in the aviation ecosystem often manifest themselves differently for private business—versus commercial—aviation. With so much change taking place over the last year or so throughout the aviation industry, we knew it was crucial to capture how those shifts impacted business aviation decision-makers in our 2021 Reflections and 2022 Predictions series.
We tapped Mark Duell, Chief Solutions Officer at FlightAware, for his thoughts on how the business aviation landscape is evolving into the new year and crucial lessons learned from 2021. With strong focuses on recovery, growth, and ever-changing travel requirements, it’s sure to be an interesting path forward for business aviation operators.
Flexibility is Key to Recovery
As travel requirements ebb and flow with the updates around COVID-19, Duell recognizes that this won’t be the last time operators will need to be flexible and agile in their operations. “Operators need to be prepared for more complexity in operations, even with routes that are domestic or very familiar international trips.”
Even with numbers returning to 2019 levels, we aren’t out of the woods yet with the “chaos and cancellations” we saw throughout 2020 and 2021, and Duell urges every stakeholder across the business aviation ecosystem to be prepared for that.
Growth with Caveats
One area of business aviation that saw marked growth was leisure travel, remarked Duell. Airports like Aspen saw immense growth during 2021 as business passengers embraced remote and hybrid work models. “Typically, traffic to Aspen drops off precipitously after Labor Day weekend,” he said. “This year, it stretched about a month and a half later into mid-October.” Duell anticipates that robust growth in leisure markets will continue in 2022.
Duell also noted that corporate-focused business aviation operators will likely be concentrating on identifying new customers or regaining old customers to reach pre-pandemic levels, largely due to the increased effects of the growing remote work culture.
“Video conferencing became more normalized as everyone was forced to embrace it in 2020, and companies previously very centered around in-person interactions learned that video conferencing is also a powerful tool in their arsenal,” Duell stated.
Particularly in response to supply chain complications, Duell thinks that we’ll see continued growth in the heavy jet market for 2022 deliveries, especially as other international markets reopen. That said, the hurdles of constantly changing travel requirements will still create challenges that operators should brace for.
Keeping Pace with the Right Tools
According to Duell, 2021 was the year of more complicated and higher tempo operations for business aviation. “Flights started to pick back up and during this return, flying became just a little more complicated than we were used to with different travel requirements and restrictions.” Complementing that sentiment, Duell thinks 2022 will be the year of “continued complicated growth” with demand returning, and complex travel requirements showing no signs of waning.
Duell concluded, “Among the top priorities for business aviation principals in 2022 is going to be having the systems, staff, tools, and whatever they need to return to business as usual with the minimum amount of disruption.” While aviation is still very much in the midst of rebuilding, the right technologies will help streamline that recovery and allow operators that are strapped for budget, personnel, or both to more quickly adjust for modern needs and expectations in business aviation.