ForwardKeys, the travel analytics company, said that the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic has “brought the aviation industry to its knees” and that during the week from 30 March – 5 April, international airline seat capacity fell to just 23 percent of what it was in the first week of April 2019. Just 10 million seats were still in service, to facilitate essential travel, compared with 44.2 million a year ago, the company said. Over the first quarter of the year, airline seat capacity is 9.4 percent down compared with Q1 2019. Some 482 million seats were in service in Q1 2020, compared with 532 million in Q1 2019.
At the start of January, capacity was slightly up on last year. However, it started to fall during the last week of January, when the Chinese government announced restrictions on outbound travel. From then until the middle of March, air capacity fell substantially; at which point it fell precipitously to the end of the month, ForwardKeys said.
The top 10 airlines still operating in the first week of April from 30 March – 5 April are KLM, with 800,000 seats still in service, Qatar Airways, with nearly 500,000 seats in service and Ryanair with 400,000. They are followed by Delta, Air France, American, BA, Wizz Air, Cathay Pacific, and Jeju. This picture will change soon, as Ryanair recently announced that almost its entire fleet will be grounded due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Olivier Ponti, vice president of insights at ForwardKeys, said: “Governments have closed entire countries. In response to COVID-19, the airline industry has cut services to the bone. It is likely that when we get across to the other side of the pandemic, things won’t return to the vibrant market conditions we had at the start of the year. It’s also possible that a number of airlines will have gone bust and uneconomic discounts will be necessary to attract demand back.”