US Memorial Day air-travel boom highlights thriving jet fuel demand

NEW YORK: Roshni Sharma is one of the many American travellers opting against the traditional road trip this Memorial Day weekend and choosing instead to fly.

The 27-year-old nurse from Alexandria, Virginia, typically drives to her parents’ house in Pennsylvania for Memorial Day, but this year she and her husband are flying to Austin, Texas, to visit a long-distance friend.

“Driving down to Texas would have easily been a two- to three-day affair one way, and the entire span of our trip is two or three days, so flying is faster,” Sharma said.

Choices like Sharma’s are promising to reshape the summer market for refined oil products, with growing demand for jet fuel upstaging petrol as a key pocket of strength. The number of travellers expected to fly this Memorial Day weekend may be the highest in nearly 20 years, according to the American Automobile Association (AAA). That would be a 4.8% jump from last year and a 9% from 2019.

Broader oil demand also is expected to pick up in the coming weeks as the Memorial Day weekend kicks off the peak US driving season. Global crude consumption will increase by 2.8 million barrels a day from the end of April through the end of August, JPMorgan Chase & Co’s global commodities research team said earlier this month. Jet fuel demand will increase 430,000 barrels a day in that span, the firm said in an email last Friday.

Already, jet fuel demand has surged to the highest since 2019 for this time of year on a four-week-average basis, according to US government data. US passenger volumes in the week ended May 17 climbed by around 1.5% from a week earlier, and BloombergNEF expects passenger numbers to keep growing toward the end of the month.

“We see jet as our fastest-growing fuel globally,” said Austin Lin, an analyst for Wood Mackenzie. US jet fuel demand may advance about 5% in 2024, and global consumption may rise at a slightly higher rate, driven by robust American consumer spending and a delayed recovery from the pandemic in China, he said.

The trend may offer some relief to oil bulls who are looking for rising consumption to spur a summer rally and break crude out of the tight range it has been mired in as risks in the Middle East fade. Opec and its allies will convene on June 2 and are expected to extend supply cuts, providing another potential catalyst.

The strength in jet fuel contrasts with a lacklustre outlook for petrol. While US demand for the road fuel rose last week, it’s still languishing at two-year seasonal lows. Global petrol demand will fall by an average of about 100,000 barrels a day in 2025, JPMorgan forecasts.

The doldrums helped drive bullish gasoline bets to their lowest level in six months last week as money managers failed to see returns on spring investments in the fuel. Traders still anticipate a seasonal boost, but that may be tempered as consumers lose patience with prices at the pump.

Meanwhile, longer average flight lengths and passenger volumes have been growing as the disappearance of Covid-related restrictions encourages more international trips. That’s more than making up for the increased efficiency of jet engines, analysts have said.

Since the Covid-19 pandemic, consumers have favoured spending money on experiences, prompting more travellers to splurge on once-in-a-lifetime trips to Europe or Asia, according to Aixa Diaz, a spokesperson for AAA. — Bloomberg

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Oil and gas , jet , fuel , travel , Opec , petrol


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