The pandemic made airlines constantly reevaluate and pivot their strategies, however, as Benjamin Franklin once said, ‘out of adversity comes opportunity’, and that mindset is embraced by Ryanair.
In July 2023, Ryanair have added 28% more seats than on-sale in July 2019 (pre-pandemic), and are also now 90% larger than their closest rival – EasyJet – which they only had a 41% lead on two years earlier. Elsewhere in the Low-Cost Carrier (LCC) sector, Southwest Airlines have been adding one new aircraft each week to their fleet, by year-end they expect to have taken seventy new aircraft in total – that’s certainly adding capacity!
The Big Five
Four of the world’s top five airlines are located in the US (unsurprisingly), with the disruptor Ryanair in fifth place; something they perhaps do better than most.
This month both American and Delta Air Lines will operate less capacity than in 2019, although with strong demand forecast in one of the peak revenue earning months of the year their respective profits should be pretty good.
European legacy carriers - such as British Airways, Air France and Lufthansa - are all hovering at around 80% of their pre-pandemic capacity levels. Air France is the only airline in the world’s top twenty to have reduced capacity year-on-year (-3%), and that’s before any impact from the seasonal strike season in their ATC locations.
Turkish Airlines Drives Central Asia Surge – Check Our Rankings by Region
July shows a 13% increase in the number of seats available this month versus last year with North East Asia leading the way with a 24% recovery, the region includes China which of course was essentially closed to international traffic until January and indeed still only has one tenth of its previous volumes.
Nine of the seventeen regions now have more capacity than in July 2019, with Central Asia the fastest growing region with a significant increase in low-cost airline activity and some major network investment from the likes of Turkish Airlines helping the cause. Southern Africa remains the furthest adrift from its 2019 level at -21% but did grow 21% year on year, losing airlines such as SAA and Comair certainly hasn’t helped the situation.
Despite everything that has happened the USA remains the largest country market and is slightly ahead of the July 2019 level and 9% up on last year as new airlines and new aircraft orders are being received across both the major carriers such as Southwest and new airlines such as Breeze. Reading the data China looks to be recovering very strongly but much of that is the flip to domestic capacity that started early in the pandemic, international capacity remains weak as we mentioned earlier.
In Europe Germany is the weakest link at just 80% of pre-pandemic levels, some of that is down to increased use of alternate transport such as railways, Lufthansa’s slower than average capacity recovery and EasyJet’s realisation that you cannot make much profit on domestic services. Summer sun destinations are above 2019 levels with Spain the largest market followed by Italy as the season heats up (sorry couldn’t miss that one!) whilst the UK is still sluggish, more so in the regional markets but is over 13% up on last year.
Finally give a thought to country markets such as Thailand, Japan and South Korea where the historic dependency on Chinese international demand has yet to return, whether it’s a beach holiday, round of golf in Phuket or shopping in Tokyo these countries can’t wait for the return of the China market.
Busy Times for All
Global airline capacity is still around 2% below the level of July 2019, however it seems more demanding than ever. Although, perhaps this is because there are fewer of us employed in the industry than pre-Covid; it certainly feels like we’ve lost a lot of staff and certainly more than the 2% capacity shortfalls.
So, with July busier than ever and the usual combination of weather delays and strikes raising temperatures a few degrees higher, the summer is certainly (as always) challenging . . For those of us with no leave to take in the next few weeks and who feel like every day is busier than the last here are a few stats that confirm what you think…
The busiest week for scheduled capacity this year will be week commencing 7th August with 116.8 million seats on sale; most of which will be filled. The busiest day in that week will be Thursday 10th August with 17 million seats and the busiest hour will be between 07:00 and 08:00 (GMT) with 184,000 seats - so if you still have a chance of a shift change, you know when to avoid!