Ryanair and Wizz Air lead adding seats for summer
Ryanair and Wizz Air continue to lead European aviation's recovery, but other leading groups are becoming more bullish. In the week commencing 21-Feb-2022 Ryanair had 104% of its 2019 seats. It is the only European top 10 airline group by seats that is ahead of 2019 capacity. Wizz Air, on 83%, had the second highest percentage. Europe as a whole is on 69%; the top 10 groups are collectively at 72%.
Europe's 31.1% capacity shortfall to 2019 levels keeps it at the bottom of the regional ranking, but it is very close to Asia Pacific, where capacity is down by 30.6%. Middle East capacity is down by 26.9%, Africa by 20.3%, Latin America by 12.8%, and North America by 12.3%.
Schedules for the last week of Jul-2022 project total Europe capacity at 93% of 2019 levels, with the top 10 groups collectively at 103%. Wizz Air plans to surge to 159%, and Ryanair is projected at 117%. Turkish Airlines, SAS, Air France-KLM and easyJet also plan 100% or more of their 2019 capacity levels by late Jul-2022. Lufthansa Group, at 89%, is most cautious among the leading groups.
President Putin's disastrous invasion of Ukraine will not help in any regrowth. And the cost impact of fuel prices with oil now over USD100 per barrel is also unwelcome.
• Europe has 19.2 million seats this week, which is down 31% vs 27.9 million in the same week of 2019. Europe is again last in the regional ranking on this measure.
• Europe's 1Q2022 capacity is projected at 75% of 2019 levels, while 2Q2022's projection is 92%.
• Ryanair is Europe's number one airline group by seats this week and it is the only top 10 group above its 2019 capacity levels.
• Wizz Air Group plans the highest percentage of 2019 capacity for Jul-2022.
Europe has 19.2 million seats vs 27.9 million this week in 2019 – down 31%
In the week commencing 21-Feb-2022 total European seat capacity is scheduled to be 19.2 million, according to OAG schedules and CAPA seat configurations.
This is 31.1% below the 27.9 million seats of the equivalent week of 2019. This is 1.1ppts better than last week and an improvement of 9.4ppts over the past four weeks.
Nevertheless, it is still 12.4ppts down from a pandemic era high of -18.7% in the final week of Dec-2021.
This week's total seat capacity for Europe is split between 5.6 million domestic seats, versus 7.3 million in the equivalent week of 2019; and 13.6 million international seats, versus 20.6 million.
Europe's domestic seats are down by 23.1% versus 2019, compared with -25.1% last week.
International seat capacity is down by 33.8% versus 2019, versus last week's -34.7%.
Europe: percentage change in weekly airline seat capacity vs equivalent week of 2019
Europe remains bottom of the regional ranking by capacity as a percentage of 2019’s
With capacity down by 31.1%, Europe is now only 0.5ppts worse than Asia Pacific, where capacity is down by 30.6%. Middle East seat count is down by 26.9%; while capacity is down by 20.3% in Africa, by 12.8% in Latin America, and by 12.3% in North America.
Percentage change in passenger seat capacity vs 2019 by region, week of 30-Mar-2020 to week of 21-Feb-2022
Europe's 1Q2022 capacity is projected at 75% of 2019 levels, vs 76% a week ago
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, 31% in 2Q2021, 64% in 3Q2021 and 71% in 4Q2021.
With only one month remaining in the quarter, schedules for 1Q2022 currently project seats at 75.2% of 1Q2019 levels. This is down only slightly from 75.5% projected a week ago.
Schedules for 2Q2022 currently project seats at 91.6% of 1Q2019 levels, which is almost unchanged from 91.8% projected a week ago.
Europe's total capacity in the week commencing 21-Feb-2022 is 69% of seat numbers in the equivalent week of 2019.
However, this disguises a wide range of percentages of 2019 capacity among Europe's leading airline groups.
The composition of the top 10 groups by seats in the week of 21-Feb-2022 shows one change of airline from the equivalent week of 2019 – namely that Norwegian has been replaced by Pegasus Airlines – but the order of the top 10 has also changed.
Europe: top 10 airline groups by seats, week of 21-Feb-2022
Ryanair, which was number three by seats in the week of 18-Feb-2019, is now at number one.
…and the only top 10 group above 2019 capacity levels
This reflects the fact that the ultra-LCC is now operating 104% of the capacity that it operated three years ago. Ryanair is the only top 10 group that is now above 2019 capacity levels.
Fellow ultra-LCC Wizz Air Group is operating 83% of 2019 weekly seat numbers – the second highest percentage in the top 10 – and has raised its capacity ranking from 10 to eight.
Only three of the top 10 are below the European average of 69%.
The lowest percentage of 2019 capacity is with Lufthansa Group, at 48%. This has taken the group down from first to fourth place.
Wizz Air Group plans the highest percentage of 2019 capacity for Jul-2022
Looking ahead to the peak summer period: Europe's total capacity in the week of 25-Jul-2022 is currently projected to be 93% of seat numbers of the equivalent week of 2019, similar to the 92% projected for 2Q2022. This is based on schedules filed with OAG (and CAPA seat configuration data) as at 21-Feb-2022.
Among this top 10, all but two are currently projected to operate more than the European average of 93% of 2019 weekly seat numbers.
Six are projected at more than 100%, led by Wizz Air Group on 159%. This takes it from eighth to seventh in the capacity ranking.
Ryanair, top of the capacity ranking for the last week of Jul-2022, is projected at 117%.
Europe: top 10 airline groups by seats, week of 25-Jul-2022**
Ryanair Group CEO Michael O'Leary has said that he expects the group to recover its pre-pandemic passenger traffic levels "by March or April this year" (Reuters, 16-Feb-2022).
He has also said that he expects average airfares during summer 2022 travel to be significantly higher than summer 2019 levels.
Wizz Air and Ryanair plan the highest percentage of 2019 capacity levels among Europe's leading groups in summer 2022. The two ultra-LCCs have consistently lead Europe's capacity recovery from the pandemic and are gaining market share as a result.
Nevertheless, several other leading groups are now also planning to move above 2019 capacity in the summer.
If Mr O'Leary is right about airfares, Wizz Air and Ryanair will still have significantly lower prices than other leading competitors and should be better able to attract traffic to fill their capacity. But the current near-record fuel prices will make profitability that much more challenging.