Rather like an English batsman stuck in the nervous nineties, global airline capacity is edging closer to the 100 (million) mark this week despite the challenges being faced around the globe from a shortage of available, or more accurately security cleared, resources. A quick million in airline capacity was added back to the schedules this week as China again eased some travel restrictions. We are now at 96.6 million seats, just 17% below the 2019 level and 36% up on last year. We could hit the 100 million mark towards the middle of July if the current improvements continue, although as we know the road to recovery has been bumpy and there will undoubtedly be more twists and turns.
With May now behind us, total airline capacity for the month settled at 396.8 million which represents a 42% increase on the previous year. At the beginning of the month, there were plans to operate 419.4 million seats, so airlines adjusted capacity during the month by around 22.6 million seats which sounds a lot; in reality, it’s a 5.4% cut against a backdrop of immense resource challenges and includes some Covid restrictions in China.
For many of the top twenty country markets, this week has seen modest seasonal increases in capacity but there are two notable exceptions. On the positive side, China sees an 8% increase in capacity and is back above the 13 million weekly seat mark with an expectation of further capacity coming back on line in the coming weeks. At the same time in Brazil capacity has fallen by 9%, much of which is from the low-cost airline sector and again looking forward a few weeks the capacity returns.
Three low-cost airlines, Wizzair (+34%), Indigo (+20%) and Ryanair (+18%) are now operating at more capacity than in 2019 by significant margins. Aside from the obvious rapid recoveries by these three carriers, the competitive implications for competitors in these markets, and particularly the legacy carriers are obvious, especially when operating costs are so high and productive/utilization lower than the low-cost carriers.
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