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Europe’s seat capacity at 70% of 2019 levels in October; US reopening soon

This weekend has seen airport and airline network planners and developers finally meet face-to-face for the first time in over 18 months, as the 26th World Routes Development Forum takes place in Milan, Italy. This is a positive sign not just for the aviation industry, but for the whole business community as such conferences in other industries are also now starting to return, thus encouraging the return of business travel.

In the four weeks since The ANKER Report was last published, Europe’s air travel market has remained relatively stable. Yes, Europeans will soon be allowed to visit the US for ‘non- essential’ reasons, and the UK has gradually been relaxing some of the travel rules and regulations that have left the country near the bottom of the recovery rankings among European countries. However, a lot of additional paperwork and bureaucracy remains when it comes to air travel, which is undoubtedly having an impact on people’s willingness to travel.

Capacity at 70% in October

Latest airline schedule data for October (the last month of what the aviation industry calls the summer season) shows that seat capacity across all of Europe is currently expected to be around 70% of the figure from 2019. This is a slight improvement from the 67% recorded in September. However, the October figure may still come down as airlines continue to adjust frequencies and capacities in light of demand.

Airline results for September

Among airlines, Ryanair has already reported that it carried 10.6 million passengers in September at a load factor of 81%. This compares with 11.1 million passengers in August at a load factors of 82%. However, in September 2019 the carrier welcomed 14.1 million passengers at a load factor of 96%. As the graph below shows, Ryanair has been one of the most successful airlines in terms of capacity, operating at about 90% of its 2019 level.

Wizz Air reported transporting almost three million passengers in September at a load factor of 78.4%, compared with 3.6 million at 83.6% in August. In September 2019 it was 3.82 million at 94.5%. While many legacy carriers are only reporting monthly data every quarter, SAS reported its scheduled load factor as being just 53% in September, while Finnair is at 40.5%. However, these carriers are still operating several long-haul services primarily for cargo, which is having a significant impact on their passenger load factor figures.

Major European airlines in 2021 to October

Albania still leading the recovery

Breaking down capacity by country market reveals that the small Albanian market is still the only one showing capacity growth of more than 10% in October compared with 2019. Among Europe’s big six country markets, the more popular tourist destinations have again performed best with Turkey leading the way at 85% recovery, followed by Spain (76%) and Italy (71%). France is now at 65%, ahead of Germany (57%) and the UK (54%).

The only countries doing worse than the UK in terms of their capacity recovery in October are the Czech Republic (at 44%) and Finland (at 43%). In July Prague airport traffic was down 69%, while Helsinki traffic was down 78% in August.

European airline capacity for October 2021