Air travel is on the rise but only just according to the latest data from OAG, the world’s leading source of airline schedules.
In a new report, OAG said that last week there was a 2 per cent increase in weekly capacity with some 29.8 million scheduled seats representing a small but very important 600,000 more than the previous week with pockets of growth occurring in eight of the seventeen regional markets analysed.
“Total capacity is now at 29.9 million seats; some 80 million fewer seats than operated in the same week last year which highlights how far the global market has been impacted,” says OAG.
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The scale of the decline due to COVID is highlighted by the decline in services Sydney to Melbourne route from 1000 services a week to just 38.
OAG says that “for some weeks North-East Asia has been showing signs of some recovery in capacity, driven of course by the growth in Chinese capacity where a further one million domestic seats were added back this week to the schedules.”
“Hong Kong is another market to report some positive news with Cathay Pacific adding back some 40,000 seats and growing frequency by some 120 flights over the seven days; at around eight round trip flights a day hardly earth-shattering but nevertheless a positive step.”
OAG has also detected small growth signs in South America.
It reports that some 800,000 additional domestic seats are being added in China which highlights that domestic travel will lead the airline industry out of the COVID-19 disaster.
OAG reports that China’s domestic capacity stands at 75 per cent of January’s level, the United States at 27 per cent and Russia at 49 per cent of pre-COVID-19 levels.
China is now the world’s number 1 travel market operating twice as many seats.
OAG is finding that the market in many places is quite chaotic with an extremely high level of cancellations, particularly in the US domestic market.
“The last two weeks have seen all of the major US airlines reduce the number of scheduled domestic flights, as some 16,250 flights have been “unscheduled” over the last two weeks which is around a 25 percent cut,” says OAG.
However, the level of cancellation is declining.
OAG reports that at the end of January there were some 24,400 airport pairs operated at least once weekly but that is now down to just above 13,000 as airlines suspend networks and retrench back to the core networks established over many years.