European aviation travel restrictions keep demand pent-up

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Projected Jul/Aug-2021 capacity in Europe has been increased again this week, although summer bookings are weak and slow COVID-19 vaccine rollout means that case numbers are still high.

Meanwhile, seat capacity in Europe remains heavily depressed, at 71.7% below 2019 levels in the week of 12-Apr-2021, which is 1.1ppts worse than a week ago.

Moreover, the 20.5ppt gap to the next worst region is the widest of the pandemic. Middle East capacity is down by 51.3% versus 2019, Africa by 50.8%, Latin America by 46.5%, North America by 37.8%, and Asia Pacific by 29.7%.

There is evidence of pent-up demand in Europe, but demand is a lesser variable than restricted supply. Europe has the second highest levels of restrictions on international travel (only a little less than Asia Pacific, source: IATA), but its airlines have the highest dependency on international capacity.

The UK is due to give more details of its planned 'traffic light' approach to reopening international travel, scheduled to be in early May-2021. The UK is ahead of the rest of Europe with vaccinations and in bringing down infection rates, and its approach will no doubt be scrutinised by others.

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