Europe's winter traffic <25% of last year. Expect airline bankruptcies

Premium Analysis

After nine successive weeks of progressively worse year-on-year declines, Europe now has the deepest capacity cut of all world regions.

Seat numbers have been cut by -63.4% in the week commencing 19-Oct-2020. Middle East, previously occupying last place, now moves above Europe with a -62.8% cut, while Africa is -59.1%, Latin America -57.8%, North America -52.1% and Asia Pacific is -39.2%.

Ryanair, Europe's biggest airline, has cut its winter capacity plan from 60% to 40% of 2019 levels. EUROCONTROL DG Eamonn Brennan told CAPA Live October that he expected air traffic movements in Europe at 40% of last year's this winter, which suggests a lower figure for seat capacity (since long haul flights, with more seats, have been cut more heavily than short haul).

The EU's 'traffic light' approach to travel restrictions does not seem likely to alleviate the outlook to any meaningful degree. With Europe's aircraft perhaps only half full on average, passenger numbers could fall short of 25% of prior year traffic, pushing revenue even lower.

Expect European airline bankruptcies by the end of this winter.

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