May 12, 2011 / 9:02 AM / 8 years ago

Business aviation flights growing, plane sales down

GENEVA (Reuters) - Sales of dedicated business aircraft are failing to keep pace with the recent upturn in business-class travel which is slowly fighting its way back from a slump in 2009, according to new sector reports.

People attend the Shanghai International Business Aviation Show at the Hongqiao International Airport in Shanghai April 13, 2011. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

The reports, which appeared in advance of the EBACE sales show and company leaders’ gathering in Geneva next week, also suggest the business travel sector is set for healthy growth in the next three years.

Figures issued by the European air safety body Eurocontrol showed that the number of flights by independent operators and companies running their own aircraft was this year continuing to improve on the increase of 5.5 per cent in 2010.

But according to a report from the U.S.-based General Aviation Manufacturers’ Association, shipments and billings for aircraft in the first quarter of this year have been dropping well below the figures for the same period last year.

Aircraft shipments across the world fell by 4.6 per cent in the first three months of 2011, from 390 to 372 units, compared to the first three months of 2010. Billings, at $3.7 bln, were down nearly 20 per cent, the association said.

“This has been a very difficult year to date as a result of the slow economic recovery in North America and Europe,” said GAMA’s President and Chief Executive Officer Pete Bunce.

“Emerging market deliveries continue to sustain the industry.”

Industry results on Tuesday said the business-class recovery was mainly limited to those airlines whose exposure to emerging markets largely buffered them from the effects of higher fuel prices.

Brussels-based Eurocontrol said it expected to see business aviation continue to outstrip the scheduled and passenger market in growth over the next two years.

EBACE, the European Business Aviation Conference and Exhibition now in its 11th year, is one of the industry’s two annual flagship events. The other is organised in the United States by the North American Business Aviation Association.

EBACE opens in Geneva on May 17 for three days.

It attracts major manufacturers such as Airbus Industrie EAD.PA, Boeing (BA.N) Business Jets division, Canada’s Bombardier (BBDb.TO) and Brazil’s Embraer (EMBR3.SA) as well as smaller plane builders and equipment suppliers.

Editing by Stephanie Nebehay and Mike Nesbit

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