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United ends 2012 as world's biggest airline, Emirates third. Turkish and Lion Air the biggest movers
United Airlines, following its merger with Continental, has ended 2012 as the world's biggest airline measured by available seat kilometres for the current week, ahead of second placed Delta, whose capacity fell 0.3% year on year, according to Innovata. Fast growing Dubai-based carrier Emirates is the world's third biggest airline by this measure, and could be in second place by the end of 2013 if the past year's growth rates are maintained.
Southwest Airlines remains easily the largest LCC, while Lion Air and Jetstar have each climbed the LCC top 10, to sixth and seventh places respectively, overtaking Westjet. Atlanta Airport (just) remains the world's largest, ahead of Beijing Capital Airport, in terms of seat throughput for the week, but this ranking seems certain to reverse in 2013.
The biggest movers in the overall World Top 50 list include Turkish Airlines, which jumped seven places to rank 15th globally, while Indonesian carrier Lion Air vaulted eight places to enter the global Top 40 for the first time. Iberia and India's Jet Airways fell four and seven places in the 2012 rankings, respectively.
Global Airline Alliances collectively grew capacity at higher than the world rate, with SkyTeam expanding fastest of the three majors, although Star Alliance remains easily the largest.
Emirates is close to overtaking American Airlines and becoming the third largest airline by available seat kilometres (ASKs) after the Dubai-based carrier's massive 19% increase in capacity over the last year. Emirates' current capacity is close to 30% above levels of just two years ago, according to Innovata. Over the same period, American has cut capacity by about 8% while larger rivals United Airlines and Delta Air Lines have slashed ASKs by over 16%, according to Innovata. Interestingly, were American Airlines to combine with US Airways it would become the world's biggest airline - some 4% larger than Delta by ASKs based on Innovata capacity figures for Aug-2012.
The other big movers over the past two years include Ryanair, which has leapfrogged China Southern and US Airways into the Top 10, and Turkish Airlines, which has soared into 17th position (from 27th two summers ago) thanks to an astonishing 52% increase in ASKs. easyJet has also moved up several places to be just outside the Top 20, while Japan's ANA and JAL have fallen outside the top 20 grouping.
China's leading airports are on the cusp of strong international growth, with several new routes to be launched in the coming 12 to 24 months. Growth will be driven by foreign and local needs: countries will have greater needs to further link with China while locally there will be an increasing propensity to travel among the Chinese population as incomes rise, while high-speed rail expansion will push Chinese airlines to grow internationally, at the same time providing feed opportunities for foreign carriers at the main Chinese gateways.
But growth is not only expected at the main Chinese hubs. Second tier airports can also look forward to increasing air services as the Government supports expansion from these hubs and as the LCC revolution takes hold in North Asia. New carriers across the region will be looking for new route opportunities, fuelling rapid growth at non-congested Chinese gateways. China's own second tier airlines are also looking to expand abroad, mainly within the Asia Pacific region, which will spur development at the provincial capitals across China's vast interior and economic zones.
Airports Council International (ACI) has provisionally released its annual list of the world’s busiest airports for 2011. While there is equal representation from the Americas, Europe and Asia Pacific throughout (and specifically in the top 10) the 2011 the list is notable for the way Beijing Airport has retained its second position behind Atlanta, but growth slowed there in 2011.
Meanwhile the US' southern hub managed a small growth margin of its own that was equivalent to a small airport’s entire annual throughput, to maintain a 15 million passenger cushion over Beijing, where economic factors and high-speed rail (HSR) came into play. But sadly for the US, that country's airports will not have similar levels of competition from HSR to China's.
The rankings of the world’s busiest airports for 2011 show key developments and lasting changes in global aviation, although the world’s busiest airport by total passenger movements, Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, continued to hold off Beijing, the world’s second busiest airport, in 2011, according to Airports Council International (ACI). It is, however, expected that Beijing, driven by exponential GDP growth, will overtake Atlanta in 2012, ending the airport's 14-year reign in the top spot.
While Beijing Capital is the dominant airport in China, it is on track to become be the world’s busiest hub by the end of this decade, leaving London and even ambitious Dubai in its wake. And new developments will ensure the city of Beijing has an airport in the top spot: its new airport at Daxing, south of Beijing, could have up to nine runways and ultimate capacity to handle around 370,000 passengers per day, or a staggering 135 million passengers p/a. This would increase capacity at Beijing area airports to around 220 million p/a – almost a quarter of a billion passengers.
The world's airlines are being cautious with their capacity deployment in 2012, the latest figures from Innovata show. Carriers increased their capacity by 3.6% during in March, which is slightly above IATA's latest forecast for full-year capacity growth.
The single operating certificate that was granted to United-Continental last month will see the combined entity overtake Delta Air Lines as the world's largest airline. American Airlines has dropped to third in the ranking, based on available seat kilometers, and through capacity cuts associated with its bankruptcy may fall to fourth place next year, allowing Emirates to swoop in as third largest. If American and US Airways merge they would likely fall just under United Airlines but could catch up in subsequent years.
The world's airlines are paring back capacity deployment this month, growing their available seat kilometres (ASK) by 5.5% year-on-year - the slowest pace of growth this year. According to Innovata, the world's airlines are scheduling just a 3% increase in flights and a 4.5% increase in seating capacity. It follows last week's warning from IATA that it is "still expecting a general weakening in passenger traffic as we head toward the year-end”.
However, the world's LCC continue to buck the global trend, expanding their flights, seats and ASKs by 5.6%, 6.3% and 7.4%, respectively, year-on-year. By seats per week, LCCs now command 22.3% of global aviation. There are a few exceptions to the LCC growth rule, with Ryanair and easyJet enacting seasonal capacity reductions, though this year's cutbacks are particularly harsh.
The world's airlines may be feeling the chill winds of economic downturn, but they continue to grow capacity at a rapid clip. Total capacity measured by available seat kilometres (ASKs) will grow by 7.1% this month, according to Innovata. The world's LCCs are, again, growing ahead of the global average, by 8.5%, while SkyTeam Alliance capacity is growing by 18.3%, thanks to the enlargement of the grouping and expansion by its members.
SkyTeam now accounts for 17.8% of worldwide capacity (up 1.7 ppts year-on-year). It still trails Star Alliance's 25.3% share (-1 ppt) but is closing the gap. oneworld has a 13.8% share of ASKs (down 0.1 ppt), while the world's LCCs and un-aligned airlines account for 17% and 26.2% of global aviation, respectively.
Seven of the top ten airlines by widebody deliveries scheduled over the next 12 months are in Asia, with only Emirates, Lufthansa and Qatar Airways also in the leading group. ANA heads the list, thanks to its hectic B787 induction schedule, while Cathay Pacific, Air China and China Southern all have 15 or more widebodies on order for delivery over the next 12 months. Malaysia Airlines, Air India and Japan Airlines are also present in the Top 10. Asia Pacific airlines are likely to be in hot demand for airport route developers worldwide in coming months.
LCCs now account for about a fifth of all flights globally, making it increasingly vital for airports and air traffic management providers to understand the sector and its drivers. Worldwide, of the top 20 airports for LCC aircraft movements, 12 are in the US, four are in Europe and the remainder are in the Asia Pacific region. (By seats, ten are in the US, and five each in Europe and Asia Pacific). As ever, though, the global LCC market is in flux. Airlines expand or contract their operations at airports in relation to their own growth trajectories and the changes in season.
The world's airlines are scheduling some 4.9% more seats this September than the same month in 2010, translating into a 6.7% increase in ASKs. These are similar to the capacity increases witnessed in the peak summer month of August, suggesting the leading airlines are confident about growth prospects. Delta Air Lines remains the world's biggest carrier this month, despite trimming its ASKs by 2.1% year-on-year. United (-4.3%) and US Airways (-2.2%) are the only other carriers in the Top 25 that are reducing their capacity year-on-year. United-Continental however is the world's biggest combination, maintaining a margin of some 5.5% above Delta in terms of ASKs.