European aviation capacity: Wizzair and Ryanair lead recovery

Premium Analysis

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic quarterly capacity plans filed by European airlines with OAG have fallen appreciably as each quarter has unfolded.

For 3Q2021, the peak summer quarter, capacity as a percentage of 2019 was projected at 72% at the start of the quarter and is now scheduled to be 67%.

However, 3Q capacity projections derived from filed schedules for the leading Western European airline groups are now consistent with recent guidance given by them to stock markets. This suggests that the previous sliding outlook trend may be stabilising.

Meanwhile, Europe's total seat numbers are 34.7% below 2019 levels in the week commencing 2-Aug-2021, which is another new high for the pandemic period and keeping Europe in third place. The Middle East, where seat capacity is down by 45.9% versus 2019, remains at the bottom. This week, Asia Pacific is down by 39.6%, Africa by 37.6%, Latin America by 27.9%, and North America by 22.1%.

The two ultra LCCs Wizz Air and Ryanair are showing greater ambition in restoring capacity, helped by low fares, strong balance sheets and a flexible market entry culture.

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