The summer’s dizzying heights, when the world could fill more than 100 million seats a week, are long gone. For the next seven days, capacity has decreased to 89.4 million seats, a somewhat lower level than last week. This week, we may “blame” the US aviation industry for that reduction, though it will rapidly recover.
Major seasonal holidays, like Thanksgiving in this case, always have an impact on capacity, and we’ll see later that it’s not necessarily a good thing. Although 89.4 million seats may appear soft but they are up +17% from the previous year and down -15% from 2019 levels. It is anticipated (certainly at a worldwide level) that capacity will stay about 15% below 2019 levels through the first half of 2023.
What Does Capacity Look Like in 2023?
Looking ahead to the first few months of 2023, current capacity is about 6% below 2019levels. However, airlines have yet to really start thinking about the new year, and Chinese airlines continue to publish their full schedule despite the likelihood that they will have to make last-minute changes to their operations; what other option do they have? All of this means that January is expected to start with approximately 372 million, still 7% higher than in 2022, but an indication that the market recovery will begin to slow down in the first quarter of next year.
Since there hasn’t been much change in capacity at the regional level over the past week, this week we have looked at ASKs (available seat kilometres) rather than capacity for all the key tables. The relative standings are somewhat impacted when the measuring parameters are altered at the regional level, but the amount of recovery still needed is more clearly highlighted. North East Asia is down -41% compared to the same week in November 2019 but would only be down -31% if we were calculating pure capacity, making the absence of those longer international sectors even more apparent.
Thanksgiving’s Impact on Capacity
United States for the past two weeks, as shown in the chart below, has had a substantial impact on this upcoming Thursday’s capacity, which is 34% below the level of the previous week. This suggests that if you haven’t travelled by Wednesday, getting a last-minute seat may be nearly difficult. The second notable aspect of the data is the degree of capacity restraint that airlines are displaying with little or no additional capacity added over the two-week period;
Although this week should be relatively quiet for airlines, work is still being done behind the scenes. With delegates returning to the IATA Slots Conference to finalize their summer 2023 itineraries, Qantas appears to be bringing back more of its A380 aircraft, London Heathrow has removed any concerns regarding to capacity restrictions for the upcoming Christmas travel season, and punctuality appears to be returning to normal. Good Times!