Europe's aviation capacity close to 89% of 2019 levels – a new high
Europe's capacity recovery as a percentage of 2019 levels has broken from its narrow 13-week range of 86%-87%, reaching almost 89%. This is the closest to 2019 levels in the COVID-19 pandemic era.
Europe's total seat capacity is at 88.6% in the week commencing 22-Aug-2022, which is a shortfall of 11.4% against the equivalent week in 2019.
Europe remains fourth in the regional ranking, above Asia Pacific, where capacity is down 22.8% versus 2019, and the Middle East, where capacity is down 14.2%. Africa capacity is down 11.0%, North America 8.5%, and Latin America is down 2.3% (the best performance of any region since before the pandemic).
Not only has this week's capacity recovery reached a new high for Europe, but projected capacity for 4Q2022 has increased, rising from 86% to 88% over the past two weeks (to week of 22-Aug-2022).
In addition, data from the CAPA Fleet Database show that Europe's passenger jet fleet in service is almost back to pre-COVID levels, led by LCCs, and with legacy airlines not far behind.
- Europe has 32.8 million seats this week, down 11% vs 37.0 million in the same week of 2019. Europe is fourth in the regional ranking on this measure.
- Europe's 1Q2022 capacity was at 74% of 2019 levels and 2Q2022 was at 84%.
- 3Q2022 is projected to be at 87%, and 4Q2022 has been raised from 87% to 88%.
- Europe's passenger jet fleet in service is almost back to pre-COVID levels, both in absolute numbers and as a percentage of the total fleet, led by LCCs.
Europe has 32.8 million seats vs 37.0 million this week in 2019, down 11%
In the week commencing 22-Aug-2022, total European capacity is scheduled to be 32.8 million seats, according to OAG schedules and CAPA seat configurations.
This is 11.4% below the 37.0 million seats of the equivalent week of 2019 and an improvement of 1.3ppts from last week's -12.7%.
After 13 weeks in a narrow range between -12.5% and -14.4% since late May-2022, Europe has broken through to record its best week of the pandemic era on this measure.
This week's total seat capacity for Europe is split between 7.9 million domestic seats, versus 8.1 million in the equivalent week of 2019; and 24.9 million international seats, versus 28.9 million in 2019.
Europe's domestic seats are down by 2.4% versus 2019 – up from last week's -4.1% and the strongest performance for the domestic market since before the pandemic.
International seat capacity is down by 13.9% versus 2019 – up from last week's -15.1% and its best pandemic era level.
Europe: percentage change in weekly airline seat capacity vs equivalent week of 2019, weeks commencing 06-Jan-2020 to 15-Aug-2022
Europe remains fourth in the regional ranking by capacity as percentage of 2019 levels
Europe remains in fourth place in the ranking of regions measured by seats as a percentage of 2019 levels this week.
With capacity down by 11.4%, Europe is 11.4ppts better than sixth placed Asia Pacific, where capacity is down by 22.8%, and 2.8ppts above the Middle East, where seat count is down by 14.2%.
Capacity is down by 11.0% in Africa, by 8.5% in North America, and by 2.3% in Latin America.
Latin America is now closer to 2019 capacity levels than any region has been since before the COVID-19 pandemic.
Europe, North America and Latin America have taken upward steps in the trend this week, whereas Middle East, Asia Pacific and Africa have taken downward steps.
Percentage change in passenger seat capacity vs 2019 by region, week of 30-Mar-2020 to week of 22-Aug-2022
Europe's 3Q2022 is projected at 87%...
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.
The improvement is continuing in 2022 so far. Capacity for 1Q2022 was 74% of 1Q2019 levels and 2Q2022 was at 84% of 2Q2019 levels.
Projections for 3Q2022 are at 87.5% of 3Q2019 seat numbers, which is a small increase from last week's 87.1%, thanks to a 1.0% increase in Sep-2022 scheduled capacity. This is an almost unprecedented example in the pandemic era of the current quarter's schedule being increased.
…and 4Q2022 is raised from 87% to 88%
Looking ahead to 4Q2022, the projection has been increased to 88.2% from 87.0% last week, a second successive week of increase (it was projected at 86.0% two weeks ago).
Just as the current week has broken out above the 86% to 87% range that Europe capacity had occupied since late May-2022, so too has 4Q2022.
Europe's passenger jet fleet in service is almost back to pre-COVID levels
While seat capacity remains 11% short of 2019 levels, the number of commercial passenger jet aircraft in service in Europe is only 2% below pre-COVID levels.
At the end of Jan-2019 Europe had 5,705 commercial passenger jets in service with airlines, or 93% of the total fleet (i.e. only 7% were inactive). The number in service plunged by 79% to 1,181 at the end of Apr-2020, which was then just 19% of the total fleet.
As at 22-Aug-2022, there are 5,567 commercial passenger jets in service in Europe, which is 91% of the total. In both absolute numbers and as a percentage of the fleet, aircraft in service are now very close to their levels at the end of Jan-2019.
Europe's 91% in service currently compares with a world average of 87%, whereas at the end of Jan-2019 Europe (at 93%) and the world average (92%) were very similar.
Passenger jets in service as a percentage of all passenger jets*, 2020 to 2022
LCCs have higher rates of aircraft in service, but legacy airlines are also close to pre-COVID levels
CAPA has previously noted that low cost airlines have been ahead of other airlines on capacity as a percentage of 2019 levels.
See related CAPA report: Europe aviation: LCCs consolidate market share gains in the recovery
Similarly, LCCs have a higher percentage of their fleet in service, with 96%, compared with 89% for legacy airlines. These figures are both at, or close to, Jan-2019 levels, which were 96% for LCCs and 91% for legacy airlines.
Low cost airlines have been ahead on this measure for more than a year, although they were below other airlines at certain times during the pandemic. This demonstrates their greater responsiveness in moving aircraft in and out of service according to market conditions.
Europe: passenger jets in service as a percentage of all passenger jets* by business model**, 2020 to 2022
Data on capacity increases and aircraft in service demonstrate Europe's recovery
Recent increases in capacity scheduled for the rest of the year reverse the pattern throughout the pandemic – where schedules were progressively trimmed as they drew nearer.
This lends further weight to the view that COVID-19 is no longer holding back demand to any significant extent in Europe, but that the key issue is the labour shortage and other aviation supply chain constraints.
See related CAPA report: European aviation moves into the post-pandemic era
Moreover, the near-return of aircraft in service data to Jan-2019 levels also suggests that European aviation is now largely post-COVID.