Global airline capacity rises to its highest in 2022 as China adds more seats, OAG says

Planned capacity over the next three months continues to edge closer to the 2019 mark

Passengers wait for their flight as a China Eastern flight takes off from the runway of Baiyun Airport on Friday, March 25, 2022, in Guangzhou province, southern China. AP

Global airlines’ capacity rose 3 per cent to 88.5 million this week, the highest level in 2022, as the Chinese domestic demand rebounds despite continued lockdowns in Asia’s largest travel market, aviation data provider OAG said.

Planned capacity over the next three months continues to edge closer to the 2019 mark, reflecting airlines’ confidence in the air travel rebound, the firm said in a report.

“We still have a long and increasingly harder journey back to the 109 million seats per week in 2019; if, indeed, we ever reach back to that point. But compared to last year, things are looking a lot better in most markets,” John Grant, OAG chief analyst, wrote in a blog post on the firm’s website.

Airlines around the world are ramping up operations as demand rebounds on the back of easing travel restrictions.

Airlines globally added 2.5 million seats in the week to Monday, almost half of which are in China, OAG data revealed.

“The challenge of rebuilding an industry that had virtually closed over the last two years is highlighted by there being 43 per cent more seats on offer this week than last year, and given the “stop-start” nature of the recovery in many markets, airlines and airports can hardly be accused of a lack of planning; when they planned to rebuild, they were stopped in their tracks, in some cases on multiple occasions,” Mr Grant said.

North-East Asia is the fastest-growing regional market this week with a 10 per cent increase in capacity on last week, OAG said. While China is the major growth driver, there are also capacity increases in Japan and South Korea, although travel between the three countries remains heavily restricted, it said.

South Asia, Central Asia and Central America are reporting more airline capacity this week than offered in 2019, the data showed.

South Asia led the three regions, with 8 per cent more capacity, largely driven by India, which is now 10 per cent up over the past two years.

“With May fast approaching, and travel restrictions being eased in many markets, the summer season will really kick off in the next few weeks,” Mr Grant said.

Updated: April 28, 2022, 5:30 AM