This year, as most European countries locked down to try and get COVID-19 under control, Sweden famously took a lighter approach. Though many businesses shut down in Stockholm, most restrictions were simply recommendations, and people were free to come and go from their houses as they pleased. After some months of this there was a rumor that went around: that high-flyers were arriving in Stockholm in droves to avoid lockdown in their home cities and live a freer life among the Swedes.

It sounded plausible. Unlike many neighbors Sweden did not block Europeans from visiting if they felt like doing so for whatever reason. If you had access to a private jet and got sick of staying in your house, why wouldn’t you head to Sweden and take a nice long walk or something, right? You could even go to the movies or go out to eat.

Well, we looked at the data, and as it turns out no private jet spike ever happened – at least not at the two main airports for Stockholm, Arlanda (ARN) and Bromma (BMA).

Arlanda Bromma private jet data
A chart comparing 2019 and 2020 private jet flights to and from Stockholm’s main airports.

To be sure, private jet traffic may not have taken the same hit that commercial traffic did. While the latter fell off a cliff from March onwards, private flights kept running at between a third and a half of last year’s levels, roughly speaking. So it’s probably not incorrect to say that there were some private flyers who decided to come and enjoy a slightly-closer-to-normal existence in Sweden. But there was no great pilgrimage to this easygoing Nordic land.

It would have been interesting to see if it were true. Data that tells a crazy story is always more fun. But sometimes data can be useful to dispel a rumor, too.


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