Globally, airline capacity remains stalled at 58% of pre-pandemic levels, according to John Grant, chief analyst at Aviation Data Corporation (OAG), noting that for every market that grows, there is a downturn.Based on weekly OAG updates, Bloomberg is providing an international tracking tool to monitor the recovery of air travel, while Grant rules out that such a recovery will happen quickly.
The number of seats offered by airlines currently stands at 62 million weekly seats, compared to 106 million weekly seats in 2019.
Less seats than ever before
Although the calculation of the displayed seats is not an accurate measurement, as far as tracking the actual movement of passengers, it is something that can help in identifying general trends and gives an early glimpse of what is happening at the international, regional or national level.
In Europe, the closures have dampened hopes of a prosperous summer, and Grant expects that air travel capacity will reach an average of about 65 to 68 million seats by the end of the year, with passenger demand falling by 15 to 20 percentage points, under the available flight capacity, and this is expected to continue. The situation is “for a long time,” according to Grant. He added, “There may be light at the end of the tunnel, but the tunnel in front of us is still very long.”
What does air travel look like this week?
OAG data for the week that began on April 12 shows that US air traffic has gained strong momentum. Some destinations in the Caribbean have benefited from the recent improvement. Besides Cancun in Mexico, American airlines are carrying Americans to the US Virgin Islands, as capacity for these flights increased by 36% compared to 2019, and in Puerto Rico, capacity increased by 0.5%. As for the St. Vincent and the Grenadines flights, the volcanic eruption that took place last week is expected to wipe out 13% of the profits.
Low-cost airlines in the United States had increased their flight capacity, after rising vaccination rates helped spur leisure travel. Holdings Frontier Group and Spirit Airlines appeared to be the most enthusiastic, increasing the number of flights ahead of the spring break, although their impulses subsided in the past week.
Asia is ahead of everyone in returning to travel
Despite the growth in the US air travel, Asia is at the forefront. Airline seats offered in China increased by 5.1% compared to the same week of 2019. In Vietnam, which is still closed to foreign tourists, domestic tourism contributed to the return of flight capacity to what it was two years ago, and the same applies to India, as the number of Seats offered are only 16%.
While in Europe, hopes for a promising summer have dwindled on the continent, as the seats offered in trips to countries such as: Italy, France and Germany are still 25% or lower compared to pre-epidemic rates.
As for the sudden development, there are some bright spots in Africa, which is led by the Democratic Republic of the Congo with a 41% rise compared to pre-epidemic rates. The central African country in the arms of the rainforests has opened its international borders since August.
In the Middle East, war-torn Yemen is seeing an improvement in flight capacity, up by 19% compared to 2019 rates. Although Yemenis have limited options as to which countries to go to, airlines have restored flights to Sudan and Ethiopia. Easiest for Yemenis to obtain travel visas.
No geographic area returned to 2019 averages
China was quickly able to control the outbreak of the Coronavirus, and it succeeded in keeping infections at low rates. It continues to enable airlines in Asia to perform better than other airlines around the world, but this has not been enough to return to the capacity of flights that have declined since 2019.
The recovery in Asia was hampered for a while during the Lunar New Year holiday last February, after the Chinese government urged citizens to refrain from traveling, according to OAG data. However, things returned and improved after that, despite a recession in The pace of recovery in recent weeks.
North America, for its part, saw a clear improvement in early March, driven by travel for spring break, and vaccination campaigns gaining momentum.
It seems that this trend will continue after the CDC announced that vaccinated people can return to recreational travel, but this optimistic outlook has diminished due to the rise in infection rates in the Midwest region, which has raised the number of infections in general in the United States to the highest Modified for her two weeks ago.
As for Europe, it lags behind all other geographical regions, as several factors converge, such as the high dependence on international flights, which are currently complicated due to border closures, in addition to the emergence of new strains of the virus, and the problems that prevailed in the vaccination campaign in the European Union.
On the other hand, the United Kingdom, which has been the most successful in reducing the number of casualties, appears ambiguous about its specific goal of returning international flights on May 17th. Even so, she says, she is committed to this goal so far.
Domestic travel makes up for the losses
In the United States, United Airlines’ capacity is still 50% less than its previous rate, as it focuses on international flights. The Chicago-based airline has carefully matched capacity and demand to ensure its plane flies fuller.
Delta, which is also a huge international airline, will provide more seats to passengers starting May 1, when it becomes the last airline in the United States to lift its ban on selling tickets for seats in the middle rows.
While international travel is still shy, domestic aviation has flourished in some major countries. Traveling by train or by car is not practical enough. Both China and India have continued to receive single-aisle aircraft from Airbus. Vietnam, which stretches nearly a thousand miles from north to south, has made a good recovery as well, with airline capacity down only 5.2% compared to 2019.
On the other hand, Singapore and Hong Kong rely mainly on international travel, and barely record any air traffic. Any progress made in establishing new corridors will be obstructed by a new outbreak of the virus. This is despite the fact that the number of injuries is still low compared to Western countries.
In Malaysia, where capacity fell to 85% below the average in 2019, Air Asia revealed a record loss in the first quarter of 2020 after local closures caused by the virus impeded its plans to resume its limited activities.
What lies ahead in aviation?
As US airlines recall their pilots who were on vacation, the continuity of the March recovery will depend on the coming weeks. Analyst Hilanie Baker of “Queen & Co.” said that the high number of cases of Coronavirus has led to a lack of clarity on the horizon of airlines.
In all likelihood, vaccination rates will be the main factor driving the lifting of the travel ban in the coming months.
In this context, the United States this week suspended the use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, and its introduction in Europe was delayed after reports linked it to rare blood clots. Doubts have also been raised about the effectiveness of some Chinese vaccines.
“It is very difficult to get enough vaccines available globally by the end of 2021 or until 2022,” said Grant of OAG. “Air travel is almost a luxury product again, especially if you have to undergo testing before you leave and when you return. .