Air Travel Capacity Still Low; Could Impact 2022 ForecastBy Sofía Hanna | Mon, 09/20/2021 - 17:45
Poor aircraft capacity continues to drag down 2022 recovery forecasts, as airlines have failed to return to their 2019 levels. On the other hand, business travel is on the rise, which could support the recovery of the sector.
Current airplane capacity stands at about 70 percent of 2019, according to OAG, because almost all markets are reporting load factors 10-15 percent below normal levels, which could suggest that demand is 30-40 percent below its normal levels. Airlines continue to remove seats for health reasons but they need more capacity to have a stable recovery.
“The US has some 1.7 million seats on sale (2.8 million in 2019), primarily to the Caribbean and Latin America, whilst China has 128,000 compared to just over 2 million in 2019,” said OAG. In terms of airlines, those with the largest capacity so far are American Airlines, Delta Airlines, Southwest Airlines, United Airlines and Ryanair. The expected capacity for this week stood at 81.9 million. Seven days later and it had slipped back to 78.8 million: a fall of nearly 4 percent in the week before travel.
In some regions, however, capacity has almost returned to its 2019 levels. “South East Asia has nearly 200,000 additional seats added back and finally; there is some domestic capacity being added in Malaysia.”
Business air travel could turn this trend around, according to OAG, but this sector is also shrinking as autumn approaches. This is making many airlines nervous. “If they are not spotted soon, then February 2022 looks like the best chance for their reappearance,” according to OAG.
Mexico is still below its pre-pandemic levels, with total passenger traffic at only 61 percent of what it was in 2019, according to the Federal Agency of Civil Aviation’s (AFAC) “Indicators of Mexican Aviation.” By July, a total of 42.1 million passengers have flown during 2021, while 69.2 million passengers had flown during the first seven months of 2019. So far this year, the airlines with the highest growth have been Viva Aerobus, Aéreo Calafia and Volaris. National airlines have grown by 50.6 percent in 2021, while they only grew 8.9 percent in 2019.