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China's Recovery Pushes Global Capacity To Highest Level In 2022 So Far

May 12,2022

Global scheduled airline capacity reached 88.5 million seats in the week to Monday, April 25th, an increase of 2.5 million seats (up 3%) from the previous week and the highest level in 2022, according to the travel data firm OAG.

Growth in China accounted for half of the 2.5 million seats added. The number of seats on offer in China is expected to continuously increase and reach the pre-outbreak level (17 million per week) around mid-June, according to an OAG analysis report.

More restriction-free travel destinations also have a positive impact on capacity rebuild. The UK had already ended all travel restrictions by mid-March; Thailand and Singapore removed all remaining travel restrictions for vaccinated travelers last week; Japan will ease entry requirements in the next few weeks with a doubling of permitted international arriving visitors.

The airlines are putting more faith in the future due to the travel recovery. The planned capacity over the next three months continues to edge closer to 2019 levels.

Airline capacity by region and country
Chinese airlines adding capacity back into their schedules is directly driving the capacity growth of Northeast Asia, and made it the fastest-growing regional market last week. However, OAG data shows the region's capacity remains about 36% below the corresponding week before the pandemic.

Meanwhile, three other regions are reporting more airline capacity this week than the corresponding week in 2019: South Asia, Central Asia, and Central America. Among them, South Asia has a leading figure of an 8% increase, primarily driven by India, Pakistan, and the Maldives markets. In Central America, Mexico contributes the most to the rise, and in Central Asia, it's Kazakhstan.

The top 20 country markets consist of three-quarters of all capacity provided around the world collectively. This group of nations is at 84% of their pre-pandemic levels and up by 31% over last year.

As the most prominent market worldwide and almost twice as large as the second biggest one (China), the US aviation market grew 34% from last year's corresponding week, although remaining at 9% below the 2019 level.

There are significant increases among western European countries; the United Kingdom has achieved a remarkable 706% increase compared to last year, while capacity stands at 295% for Germany, 371% for Italy, and 265% for France. The only two reporting negative figures compared to the previous year are Russian Federation at -13% and Vietnam at -16%.

Top players and struggling airlines
The recovery scale for some airlines over the past 12 months has been truly extraordinary. Ryanair ranked No.4 in the game with over 3.6 million seats provided last week and is now operating nearly ten times than it was this week last year. On the other hand, the only three airlines that have a negative number compared to the previous year are all from China: -27% for China Southern, -42.6% for China Eastern, and -43.2% for Air China.

Ryanair has added significant capacity over 2021. Photo: Adrian Pingstone via Wikimedia Commons

    For those airlines operating at least 400,000 seats a week in 2019, there are still seven airlines that have yet to recover their capacity to 50% of the 2019 level; two of them are even below 25% of their 2019 capacity level. These are -77% for Cathay Pacific Airways and -74 for Garuda Indonesia. Six of these seven struggling airlines are from Asia. If it expands the list to the top 20, 14 are from Asia.

Source: OAG

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