Global airline capacity has climbed back to 83 per cent of 2019 levels during early May with growth mainly being fuelled by low-cost carriers.
The latest figures from aviation data firm OAG show that there were 90.7 million airline seats available on flights during the first week in May, compared with 109.7 million seats for the same week in 2019. Seats were up by 46 per cent on the same week in 2021.
The UK has seen the largest increase in capacity over the past year to 3 million seats – up by 690 per cent on early May 2021 when international travel was just about to resume following lockdown. But the number of UK airline seats is still down by 17 per cent on May 2019, which almost exactly mirrors the global position on capacity.
Southern European countries such as Spain and Turkey, which rely heavily on leisure traffic, are closing in more quickly on their pre-Covid capacity levels. Spain is only 6 per cent down on May 2019 seats and Turkey is 5 per cent behind.
Europe’s largest economy Germany is still lagging behind at nearly 30 per cent below May 2019 capacity levels with 2.3 million seats available per week. France, meanwhile, has around 2 million seats, down by 15 per cent on 2019, and Italy is 7 per cent behind its 2019 capacity with 2.2 million weekly seats.
Low-cost carriers, particularly Ryanair and Wizz Air are leading the increase in capacity with both now well above their 2019 capacities. Ryanair is now up to 3.7 million seats a week, up by around 500,000 seats or 16 per cent on the same week three years ago. Meanwhile Wizz Air now offers 28 per cent more seats at 968,000 than in 2019.
But it’s not a uniform picture with easyJet still 13 per cent down on May 2019 seats. OAG notes how the UK-based airline has stopped selling row 26 on its Airbus A319s which brings passenger capacity down to 150 seats on these aircraft “thereby avoiding the fourth crew member requirement”.
Europe’s large legacy carriers, meanwhile, continue to be well below their 2019 capacity levels. Lufthansa is down by 25 per cent on May 2019 seats, while British Airways’ capacity is 20 per cent lower and Air France is offering 10 per cent fewer seats over the same period.