OAG: 2021 global airline capacity finished 35% down on pre-COVID levels

Global airline capacity for 2021 ended 35% below pre-COVID levels at 5.7 billion seats compared to 8.7 billion reported in 2019, reports OAG.

 The second half of 2021 saw a stronger recovery than the first half, with global domestic capacity at 80% of 2019 levels due to markets such as China, the United States and Russia. Capacity was slowly improving until Omicron arrived, but OAG reports that global airline capacity held strong last week, although the rest of January is looking soft.

The airline tracking service reports that airlines have removed about 11.4 million seats since the middle of December, with more cuts expected. Nevertheless, total capacity in January is currently 50% above last year’s level, reports OAG, logging in at 366.4 million seats compared to 246.5 million last year.

     OAG says that nearly 84 million seats are scheduled for operation this week, bringing global airline capacity up by 375,000 – as airlines transported holiday travelers home.      

     Slight reductions in North American capacity are reported as some airlines have moved to take schedules out for the next few weeks; most noticeably Southwest with an 11% cut in weekly capacity.

However, strong capacity growth in Asia and Lower South America cover the loss of capacity elsewhere, resulting in 22% fewer seats than in January 2020.

The OAG blog estimates that the total market remains around 40% below 2020 levels.

Amongst the top twenty country markets, Mexico (+6%) and Colombia (+4%) – both with large domestic markets that have remained widely open during the early pandemic– are both operating with more capacity than their pre-COVID levels. Brazil with capacity growth of 8% and Indonesia (+14%) also report large week-on-week growth with domestic capacity growing back strongly.

India is another bright spot, with week-on-week capacity growth up 11% (400,000 seats added). Capacity in India is now at nearly 90% of pre-Covid levels putting the country in third place behind the United States and China. Japan is in fourth-place in terms of airline capacity, says OAG.

On the down side, France cut capacity by 15% week-on-week.

     Note: OAG’s Jan. 10 blog reports that total capacity for this week has fallen back to just under 78 million seats, a 7.2% cut over last week. This is one of the largest week-on-week drops in the last six months. Capacity is now some 28% below the pre-pandemic levels and fifteen of the seventeen global regions reported cuts in capacity.