European airline traffic lags capacity climb as summer peak nears

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Airline seat capacity in Europe overall is 65.5% below 2019 in the week commencing 24-May-2021. This rate of decline has now narrowed for five straight weeks, improving by 8.1ppts over that time.

However, passenger traffic data has not matched the upward trend - at least, had not by early May-2021 (the most recent data); possibly because the slow expansion of capacity had not yet been accompanied by looser international travel restrictions.

Europe's capacity trend is still far behind other regions, even though the gap is narrowing. The next weakest is Middle East, where seat capacity is down by 53.4% versus 2019, while Africa is down by 48.9%, Latin America by 40.4%, Asia Pacific by 37.9%, and North America by 32.7%.

The UK's initial green list of quarantine-free countries has been operational for more than a week now, and EU member states have also agreed some loosening of international travel restrictions.

This is releasing some pent-up demand, but more relaxation is needed before the summer peak. Moreover, corporate travel is likely to remain depressed until corporates also relax their own policies on business trips. EUROCONTROL does not expect 2019 traffic levels until 2025.

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