European aviation recovery hits new high; international capacity is key


Europe's capacity recovery has reached a new pandemic-era high, in terms of the percentage change in weekly seat numbers from the equivalent week of 2019.

Europe's seat capacity shortfall of -15.6% versus 2019 levels in the week commencing 2-May-2022 is its best week on this measure since before the COVID-19 crisis.

However, Europe remains fifth in the regional ranking, above only Asia Pacific, where capacity is down by -34.0%. The other four regions are all closer to 2019 levels than at any time since the onset of the pandemic: Middle East capacity is down by -10.8%, while North America capacity is down by -10.7%, Africa by -9.6%, and Latin America by -2.8%.

Europe's seat capacity recovery since late Jan-2022 has mainly been driven by recovering international capacity. International capacity's share of total Europe seats is not yet back to pre-COVID levels, but will remain a key indicator of the overall recovery.


  • Europe has 27.7 million seats this week, down -16% vs 32.8 million in the same week of 2019. Europe is fifth in the regional ranking on this measure.
  • Europe's 1Q2022 capacity was at 74% of 2019 levels, while 2Q2022 is projected at 86% and 3Q2022 at 92%.
  • International capacity's share of total capacity has recovered to 74% of seats, from 68% in late Jan-2022, but is still slightly short of its pre-COVID share.
  • International capacity will remain a key indicator of the overall recovery.

Europe has 27.7 million seats vs 32.8 million this week in 2019, down -16%

In the week commencing 2-May-2022, total European seat capacity is scheduled to be 27.7 million, according to OAG schedules and CAPA seat configurations.

This is -15.6% below the 32.8 million seats of the equivalent week of 2019. Yet this is 2.7ppts better than last week and Europe's strongest week on this measure since before the pandemic, beating its previous best five weeks ago when capacity was down by -17.2% compared with the equivalent week of 2019.

This week's total seat capacity for Europe is split between 7.1 million domestic seats, versus 7.6 million in the equivalent week of 2019; and 20.5 million international seats, versus 25.2 million in 2019.

Expressed as a percentage change from the equivalent week of 2019, both the international and domestic market have improved from last week, although neither has matched its pandemic-era high.

Europe's domestic seats are down by just -5.6% versus 2019, compared with last week's -9.5%, but this is still short of the -5.1% reached in late Dec-2021.

International seat capacity is down by -18.6% versus 2019, compared with last week's -21.1%, but this is still below the -16.3% reached in late Mar-2022.

Europe: percentage change in weekly airline seat capacity vs equivalent week of 2019, weeks of 06-Jan-2020 to 25-Apr-2022


Europe is fifth in regional ranking by capacity as percentage of 2019's capacity

Europe remains fifth in the ranking of regions measured by seats as a percentage of 2019 levels this week.

All regions have reached new pandemic-era highs on this measure, with the exception of Asia Pacific.

With capacity down by -15.6%, Europe is 18.4ppts better than Asia Pacific, where capacity is down by -34.0%, but now 4.8ppts below the Middle East, where seat count is down by -10.8%. Capacity is down by -10.7% in North America, by -9.6% in Africa, and by -2.8% in Latin America.

Africa, the Middle East, Latin America, Europe and North America have taken upward steps in the trend this week, whereas Asia Pacific has taken a downward step.

Strong performances this week by Africa and the Middle East have taken them to second and third place respectively, pushing North America back into fourth after more than a year in the top two.

Latin America is now closer to 2019 capacity levels than any region has been since before the pandemic.

Percentage change in passenger seat capacity vs 2019 by region, week of 30-Mar-2020 to week of 2-May-2022


Europe's 2Q2022 capacity is projected at 86% of 2019 levels and 3Q2022 at 92%

According to data from OAG and CAPA, Europe's capacity as a percentage of 2019 levels improved with each successive quarter of 2021. It was 27% in 1Q2021, 34% in 2Q2021, 64% in 3Q2021 and 71% in 4Q2021. Capacity for 1Q2022 was 74% of 1Q2019 levels.

Capacity for 2Q2022 is currently projected at 85.7% of 2Q2019 levels, only a modest downward revision from 86.2% a week ago.

3Q2022 is projected at 92.2% of 3Q2019 seat numbers, which is barely changed from 92.0% projected a week ago (week commencing 25-Apr-2022).

International capacity is key to Europe's aviation recovery

European aviation's capacity recovery since late Jan-2022 has been driven mainly by a recovery in international seat capacity. Indeed, international capacity has been the key to the ebb and flow of European seat numbers throughout the coronavirus pandemic.

According to data from CAPA and OAG, Europe was comfortably the biggest world region ranked by international seat capacity in 2019. With almost 1.3 billion international seats, Europe's international market was 61% bigger than Asia Pacific's and 2.6 times North America's.

Moreover, Europe is more reliant on international markets than the other leading aviation regions.

In 2019 international markets accounted for more than three quarters (76%) of Europe's 2019 seat count, compared with just over a third (34%) for Asia Pacific and only a quarter (25%) for North America.

International seat capacity accounted for 72% of Europe's total in the last week of Dec-2021, at that time the highest share of total capacity since early in the pandemic. At the same time, total seats as a percentage of the equivalent week of 2019 also reached a new high in late Dec-2021.

However, the Omicron wave of the pandemic led to international capacity falling to only 68% of the total in the week of 24-Jan-2022, when total capacity slumped to only 60% of 2019 levels.

International capacity has now grown to 74% of total Europe seat capacity in the week of 2-May-2022, and total seats are at a new high of 84% of 2019 levels.

Europe: international seats as percentage of total capacity; and total seats as percentage of equivalent week of 2019 (31-Dec-2018 to 30-Apr-2022)


International capacity's share of the total has actually slipped slightly from 76% in mid-Apr-2022, since domestic capacity has outpaced it in recent weeks. Moreover, the current 74% share is below its 76% in the equivalent week of 2019.

As and when international capacity returns to its pre-COVID share, this will further boost the overall capacity recovery.

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