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Number of airline seats in April set to exceed 317 million worldwide

Number of airline seats in April set to exceed 317 million worldwide

While the world’s airlines continue to adjust their schedules and capacity daily to meet fluctuating demand in the wake of Japan’s devastating earthquakes and tsunami, OAG’s latest monthly snapshot of airline activity reveals unprecedented capacity levels planned for April.

The world’s airlines are scheduled to offer 317.4 million seats this month, according to OAG, a UBM Aviation company, in its April OAG Frequency and Capacity Trend Statistics (FACTS) report. This figure, the highest ever airline capacity for April, is 5% more than the same month in 2010, or 13.9 million more seats, and represents a 1.25% rise in the average number of seats per flight schedule. Frequencies, too, are showing significant growth with a 3% rise, or 80,653 more flights scheduled to operate worldwide in April 2011 compared to April 2010.

The fastest growing market by volume of seats is to and from the Middle East, with an 11% increase in capacity year on year. However, political events in the region will likely have an effect on sustaining this level of scheduled capacity.

In terms of absolute growth, the intra-Asia Pacific region is the clear leader with more than 6.2 million additional seats and 40,203 more published flights this month against April 2010. Over the last five years, figures within the Asia Pacific region have shown average capacity growth of 7% compared to the global average of 4%.

“Japan is such a major influence on the world stage and no region will be immune from the effects of the devastation. That, along with the prevailing economic pressures and concerns about rising oil prices, are certain to impact ongoing demand,” said Peter von Moltke, Chief Executive Officer, UBM Aviation.


The only regional market showing a reduction in overall frequency this month is for flights to and from Central & South America, although this drop is less than 1% and an improvement on March figures when the reduction was 2.7% year on year. In sharp contrast, the low cost sector is bucking this trend. Growth in frequencies and available seats on low cost carriers is higher to and from Central & South America than for any other region this month, up by 28% and 27% respectively.

Analysis of the European market reveals marginal growth of 0.3% in frequencies and just 2% in capacity for services within the region. Even the low cost sector shows modest growth this month with 3% more seats available year on year, compared to a 7% year on year increase in March. Madrid, Cologne, Athens and Stansted all showed a large absolute decline in capacity this month compared to April 2010 with -3%, -15%, -12% and -14% respectively.

“European aviation has been relatively robust in meeting the industry-wide challenges of the last decade, however increased competition from rail operators and a variety of taxation changes in major EU markets are starting to take their toll,” continued von Moltke.

April figures from OAG show UK domestic services are taking a big hit with a 14% drop in overall capacity and an 18% drop in available seats on low cost carriers. Germany, too, shows a significant reduction in capacity this month, with 5% less domestic capacity overall and 11% fewer low cost seats available.
“UK Air Passenger Duty, although frozen until 2012, continues to have an impact on business and leisure air travel demand, and we expect to see further reductions in UK domestic services in our May figures,” von Moltke added.

While North America’s domestic air service has grown at 2% for the month, it is the only region to record a drop in numbers against April 2002, with both frequency and capacity figures down compared to a decade ago. Additionally, for the first time, low cost carriers (LCCs) now represent over 30% of available capacity of the domestic US market.