It was always going to happen but after just one week of relatively little change in global airline capacity if feels like a trick is being played on the industry with the arrival of variant Omicron just before the year-end holidays. Stock markets panicked, airline shares plummeted, regulators applied new travel restrictions and airlines shrugged their shoulders and said, “here we go again”. Both as an industry and from the wider health perspective we are so much better placed to deal with another Covid variant but that doesn’t stop speculation, media hysteria and the resultant impact on an already damaged industry seeking to recover.
With Omicron only being announced late Thursday airlines have not reflected any schedule changes in their filings with OAG but are of course making short-term cancellations to schedules and will undoubtedly be working through the required changes this week. Perspective is everything, as we reported last week Southern Africa, with the greatest respect, is a very small part of the aviation market and its capacity from the region is largely self-contained with a select range of long-haul connections. Still, good news stories never sold newspapers.
Back to more mundane matters. Global airline capacity continues to be recovering with a few more million seats added back this week compared to last week, partly because of the United States operating a full seven-day schedule with Thanksgiving thankfully over and some more growth in markets such as China, Australia, and the United Kingdom. At 78.7 million seats this week capacity is still 25% below the same week in 2019 and 26% below the week of the 20th January when the pandemic began to gather momentum. Looking further forward to the end of February a further 13 million seats were removed by airlines around the world compared to last week’s data which is around a 1% change in planned capacity which is a much lower rate of capacity change than we have seen in recent times; things are improving…honestly!
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