London tops the private jet charts in 2018

  • The capital’s top three airports generated over 73,000 private jet movements last year
  • Farnborough and Biggin Hill will continue to benefit from declines at Luton and RAF Northolt, says PrivateFly

While the implications of Brexit continue to be a big unknown for both the UK and London's future, the capital's current importance at the centre of Europe's private aviation industry is clear. When it comes to Europe's private jet cities, London continued to top the charts in 2018, according to industry data and commentary released by PrivateFly.

When you combine London's multiple airport gateways for private jets, it’s the top city in Europe by some distance. While Paris Le Bourget may be the single busiest airport in Europe, the capital's top three airports - Luton, Farnborough and Biggin Hill - generated a combined a total of over 73,000 flight movements in 2018, versus 54,000 in Paris*.

“Both Farnborough and Biggin Hill experienced significant growth in 2018,” comments Adam Twidell, CEO of private jet booking service PrivateFly. In addition to making themselves more attractive to the industry and private jet passengers, they each benefitted from declines at London Luton and London RAF Northolt respectively - and are likely to continue to do so in 2019.”

Farnborough – busiest year ever

Farnborough was the biggest airport success story in Europe last year, showing the most growth (14.6%) of any in Europe’s Top 20, in a static market overall. 2018 was the airport's busiest year ever and it is now neck-and-neck with London rival Luton (at fourth place) which has lost its clear lead as the UK’s number one.

Adam Twidell adds: “Despite being more expensive than Luton, more and more of PrivateFly's London-based or London-bound customers are choosing Farnborough – often for its exceptional service. And with the airport now approved to handle up to 50,000 flight movements, there’s still room for growth.”

Biggin Hill – continuing to change perceptions

Biggin Hill had another big year of growth, up 11.9% on 2017. The South London airport is continuing to attract more private jet users, with extended hours and a £15M investment plan.

“The team there has done a great job over the past few years to change perceptions and, with a competitive pricing strategy and helicopter transfers to cut down transfer times to London, increasing numbers of customers are choosing it,” comments Adam Twidell.

Luton - in decline as airline activity takes over

Luton saw a 4.2% reduction, due to its business aviation availability being capped by the airport’s growing airline activity, and - one of its main attractions - 24-hour runway access, was withdrawn over the summer months (due to a breach of its noise control limits).

Twidell comments: “Luton used to be the de facto London choice for many of our customers, but its popularity has eroded as airline activity takes greater priority there. The same night flight restrictions will be in place this summer, so we’re expecting this trend to continue.”

RAF Northolt – runway set to close for six months

Twidell comments “Lower investment and staffing have made it difficult to secure a reliable slot at Northolt for private jet flights over the past year and it has fallen out of favour. It will be out of the equation altogether for much of 2019, with the runway scheduled to close for resurfacing for six months from the Spring.”

Outside of London, two French airports top the table – Paris Le Bourget at number one, and Nice Cote d’Azur in second place. Spain is also well-represented with four airports now in the top 20 – Barcelona for the first time – and all generated growth in 2018.

Adam Twidell: “As I said at the beginning of the year, these are challenging yet exciting times for business aviation. And while the implications of Brexit are yet to be confirmed, these figures demonstrate London’s pivotal role in Europe.”

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