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Global airline capacity set for near-total return to the pre-pandemic peaks in Q1

January 6, 2023
aviation

In 2022, airline capacity across the globe surged dramatically, reaching almost the same level as the pre-pandemic period. Scheduled airline capacity finished as expected at 4.7 billion in 2022

Global airline capacity is set to reach 1.27 billion seats in the first quarter of 2023, just behind the 1.34 billion seats in 2019, indicating a near-total return to the pre-pandemic peaks, says a report by aviation data consultancy OAG.

In 2022, airline capacity across the globe surged dramatically, reaching almost the same level as the pre-pandemic period. Scheduled airline capacity finished as expected at 4.7 billion in 2022. However, a “cyclone bomb” and the ever-changing capacity adjustments in China throughout the year probably mean that operational capacity was slightly below that point.

The global airline capacity has bounced back by over 30 per cent compared to 2021 and by nearly 50 per cent when compared to 2020. It is, however, still on a per annum basis around 18 per cent below the 2019 level and despite the second half of the year reporting a stronger performance with around a 13-15 per cent shortfall, catching up any further after the first quarter of the year was a challenge.

The UAE ranked 17th among the world’s top 20 country markets in terms of airline capacity while the US stood first, followed by China and India.

The last week of 2022 saw total capacity on scheduled airlines around the world at 4.7 million seats, about 31 per cent over the capacity in the corresponding week of 2021, the airline data aggregator and analyst firm said.

The total number of flights operated in 2022 stood at 31.2 million, a growth of 25 per cent over the previous year, and the average capacity per flight increased to 152 from 146 a year earlier, says OAG. It adds that American Airlines was the largest carrier in the year, with 248.2 million scheduled seats and the United States was the largest market and the city with the largest capacity in the world was Atlanta with 54.9 million seats.

According to the data consultancy, most of the improvement was seen in the second half of 2022, and the capacity in the first quarter of 2023, as of now stands at 1.27 billion seats, just behind the 1.34 billion seats in 2019, indicating a near-total return to the pre-pandemic peaks.

OAG highlights that this capacity does not reflect the eased travel conditions in China and hence the total capacity for the period could well exceed the pre-pandemic number.

In the first quarter of 2023, North America is now expected to be just 2.4 per cent below the capacity deployed in the first quarter of 2020 while the Middle East is 5.4 per cent below the 2020 Q1. All regions of the world, with the exception of the Caribbean, have reported weekly capacity increases. South East Asia, North Africa and Central Asia are now 50 pc over the capacity in the first quarter of 2022, leading the recovery of the aviation industry.

“Not many changes have been seen in the top 20 markets, though a few nations have swapped places. For instance, Brazil displaces the United Kingdom as 5th largest market in the world. Collectively the top 20 country markets account for 75.5 per cent of all capacity this week, in 2020 that share was 74.5 per cent so little change in the distribution, says OAG.

Most of the growth in capacity has come from the low-cost carriers, says OAG. European airlines Wizzair leads the chart with 47 per cent growth, followed by Ryanair and Indian market leader IndiGo at 15 per cent above the pre-pandemic capacity. OAG says that with new aircraft deliveries scheduled for the low-cost operators, they should widen the gulf with full-service airlines in the current year.

However, the leadership lies with full-service carrier American Airways which is now at 4.78 million seats for this week, just 1.5 per cent off the corresponding week in 2020, says OAG. Southwest follows with 4.13 million seats, up 9.2 per cent, Delta with 3.77 million, United with 3.52 million, Ryanair with 3.05 million seats, and Indian carrier, IndiGo at 2.13 million seats, says the report.

khaleejtimes