Global airline capacity has increased week-on-week but remains stubbornly below the 80 million mark with an additional 180,000 seats taking the global total to 79 million (with a little bit of rounding up). A 0.2% increase in seats is at least a positive development compared to recent weeks, but capacity remains 30% below the 2019 level with little hope of an improvement in the coming weeks. The reopening of the United States, at a date sometime in November, may have resulted in a surge of airline bookings but it certainly hasn’t resulted in airlines adding capacity as we will highlight later.
Airlines continue to cut more and more capacity to the year-end, with another 13.2 million seats removed to the end of December around the globe. Since the first week of September, airlines have removed nearly 75 million seats to the year-end; that is not the behaviour of an industry full of confidence about the forthcoming winter season, despite the gradual easing of travel restrictions we are seeing in many markets. The capacity pattern for 2021, as shown in the chart below, now has a much more sensible pattern compared to the last normal year of 2019. It looks like 2021 will finish with global capacity of around 3.5 billion, which will be around 8% up on 2020 and around 40% below 2019 capacity levels. Demand may well be more than 40% below the 2019 level as the long journey to recovery continues.
The major regional markets only report marginal changes in capacity this week, with North America down week-on-week by just 40,000 seats and North East Asia up by over 271,00, as Chinese carriers ramp up capacity for this week’s Golden Week holiday that starts on Friday. Collectively these two regional markets account for nearly half of all capacity operated; in the same week in 2019, that share was 43% indicating the increased importance of these two regions.