COVID-19: Additional seat capacity returning, slowly

Northeast Asia showing ‘some’ recovery OAG says with China and Hong Kong leading the way

Airlines in Asia and around the world have shut down operations and grounded thousands of planes due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (PHOTO: Shutterstock)

Commercial passenger air traffic is growing, slightly, in some parts of the world with Asia leading the way, according to traffic analyser OAG. The company said aviation is seeing “modest capacity growth at the global level” with a 2 percent increase in weekly capacity with 29.8 million scheduled seats this week, “representing a small but very important 600,000 more than the previous week”. Total capacity is now at 29.9 million seats; some 80 million fewer seats than operated in the same week last year which highlights how far the global market has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, OAG said.

(Chart courtesy of OAG)

The company said forward-looking capacity suggested that some 32.3 million seats would be operated this week, but fell back by 8 percent as airlines adjusted their schedules. The forward looking capacity for next week now stands at 42.3 million, although OAG said breaking the 30 million mark next week might be possible, “42 million would be a step too far”.

In Asia the growth is being driven by China where 1 million domestic seats were added back this week. Hong Kong was another market to report some positive news with Cathay Pacific adding back some 40,000 seats and growing frequency by some 120 flights over the seven days.

The top 10 country market table continues to combine a mix of the regular candidates with some traditionally smaller countries where capacity has been maintained or some signs of recovery are underway, OAG said. China continues to rank number one ahead of the United States operating twice as many seats. Vietnam was in 19th position 17 weeks ago and the Philippines in 23rd place. The absence of any Western European country in the top 10 global markets illustrates how damaging COVID-19 has been with the United Kingdom (now 13th), Germany (now 15th) and Spain now 23rd just as the traditional summer season begins to build.

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Matthew Driskill is the Editor of Asian Aviation and is based in Cambodia. He has been an Asia-based journalist and content producer since 1990 for outlets including Reuters and the International Herald Tribune/New York Times and is a former president of the Foreign Correspondents Club of Hong Kong. He frequently appears on international broadcast outlets like CNN, Al Jazeera and the BBC and has taught journalism at Hong Kong University and the American University of Paris. Driskill has received awards from the Associated Press for Investigative Reporting and Business Writing and in 1989 was named the John J. McCloy Fellow by the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University in New York where he earned his Master's Degree.


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