For a few months now I have heard the same hopeful sentiment repeated from folks all across business and general aviation – “GA will see a jump in sales thanks to COVID and the increased interest in private travel.” Heck, I have been saying (or hoping) it, too. It makes sense. Undoubtedly, more people and businesses are out there with the means for aircraft charter or ownership but previously lacked the motivation to make the leap. I don’t think it’s a stretch to speculate that ongoing health risks and growing inconveniences associated with commercial travel will provide such motivation.
But, I wanted to check that hypothesis with what salespeople are currently seeing on the aircraft market. Are they already seeing increases in activity? And for current owners, is the COVID-19 era a prime time to buy? To sell? Or is it advisable to wait until the waters calm?
Based on insights from the aircraft dealers I spoke with, there was an obvious dip or pause in transactions from March to mid-April, but as pandemic-related restrictions lifted, sales activity came back – and it came back fast and furious. Discounts can especially be found in the midsize to large-cabin jets. As you enter more into the owner-flown pistons and turbines, the competition gets tougher and more unpredictable. Here are some of those insights straight from the aircraft sales front line:
The light aircraft marketplace is very active, perhaps due to a combination of rising demand for mobility and opportunistic purchasing by latent buyers. They had been waiting for a chance to jump into the marketplace. This is a reason for cautious optimism, but to be frank – it’s still a buyer’s market for the time being. And that is a good thing because we are all buyers. If you are a seller, be deliberate, consider enlisting the help of a professional, because the increased competition demands it. If you are a buyer, hurry up before the market takes off without you!”– Jesse Adams, Sales Director, Aerista (Primarily Piston/Turboprop Sales)
The overall trend we are seeing is a renewed interest in private air travel. The airline experience has continually declined over the past two decades, and this new health threat is just another reason to fly your own plane. And now is a good time to buy…and sell. Quality aircraft are changing hands daily and interest rates have never been lower. My advice today would be the same yesterday and tomorrow: do your homework! Regardless of which side of the table you are on, enlisting the aid of an experienced aircraft dealer/broker is money well spent. Sellers tend to have a blind eye when it comes to the value of their aircraft and may set an unreasonable asking price. Likewise, buyers often do not know their true mission profile and may seek an ill-suited model. A sales professional can help avoid these potential frustrations.”– Jonathan Lones, Vice President of Sales, Flightline Group (Primarily Turboprop Sales)
There are definitely pockets of opportunity and you can find some really good buys in today’s market. Even if you have to sell your current aircraft before you can get into a new one, don’t think there aren’t any buyers. There are. And yes, you may end up taking a lower price on your current aircraft, but the savings you’ll realize on the new aircraft may far outweigh the loss on the current one. Also, don’t forget that bonus depreciation is scheduled to begin phasing out next year. And depending on the outcome of the election, may go away completely. So do what all savvy entrepreneurs do – find opportunity in any situation, because they’re there.”– Kandi Spangler, Sales Director, jetAVIVA (Primarily Jet Sales)
Judging from the experts above, it appears the incredible freedom of mobility and personal safety provided by general aviation is really starting to ignite the industry. We hope and pray that the pandemic will abate in the months ahead, but I have to believe that the amazing value of private flying will continue to attract new customers for years to come.