Global airline capacity leaps amid travel chaos in Europe
June 08 2022 07:35 PM
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Passengers watch inflight entertainment while sitting in economy class during an American Airlines Group Boeing 777-200 flight from Los Angeles International Airport.

Beyond the Tarmac
Amid travel chaos around the world, airline capacity seems to have bounced back globally with airlines scheduling nearly 95.2mn seats in early June.
This, according to aviation consultant Deirdre Fulton, represents a definite leap. Late last month, the global airline capacity stood at around 90mn seats.
Only one (country) market can have such an impact in just one week and that is China, where the re-opening of Shanghai from June 1 has triggered a big increase in capacity, with totals for Northeast Asia increasing week on week by a quarter or 3.4mn seats, Fulton said.
Airports across Europe have struggled to cope with a post-pandemic rebound in demand, but British airports have been particularly hit by major disruptions early June.
Across the UK, passengers faced lengthy delays and cancellations of hundreds of flights.
To add to the sense of chaos being reported at European airports, many passengers are being told to arrive earlier than usual given they should expect to queue for longer, but the effect of this is that there are simply more people milling around the terminals.
With easing of travel restrictions following two years of Covid-induced disruptions, airlines had clearly hoped for a bumper summer.
But they have struggled to recruit staff after the turmoil of the pandemic, and complain it is taking longer to recruit new employees and vet them for security clearance.
Schools in the UK were on a half-term break and the country also had a long public holiday weekend to mark Queen Elizabeth's 70 years on the throne.
British transport minister Grant Shapps said the government would work hard with the aviation industry to avoid a repeat of the chaos at airports last week.
Earlier, Shapps had said airlines should stop selling tickets for flights they could not staff, and urged the industry to sort out the problems.
"The industry itself needs to solve it. The government doesn't run airports, it doesn't run the airlines. The industry needs to do that ," he told BBC.
Shapps is of the opinion airline staff cuts during the pandemic had gone too deep.
"We will work with the industry very hard ... to make sure we don't see a repeat of those scenes," he said.
Beyond the UK, cancellations of flights for various reasons have caused travel chaos in Western Europe.
“It seems clear from the ongoing challenges at some airports across Western Europe that this may be a difficult summer for travel. We have already seen easyJet scale back their summer 2022 schedule to try and get ahead of on-the-day cancellations, and every day at the moment seems to bring a fresh round of cancellations and delays for travellers,” Fulton told OAG, a global travel data provider.
“Unfortunately, there is no quick fix for the staff shortages faced by the industry,” she said. Many who were made redundant or furloughed due to the Covid-19 pandemic moved into other industries, and for those entering the industry, the recruitment cycle for new employees at airports and airlines is much longer than in other industries.
Thorough security and background checks can take up to between three to six months. For an industry that was still effectively shut down in the early part of 2022, ramping back up to deal with peak summer demand was always going to take a bit of time.
While the US remains in the top spot as the largest country market for scheduled airline capacity, Fulton said China made significant inroads to the gap in the last week.
Although things are not yet back to normal, capacity is returning, with the week on week comparison growing from -44.2% behind 2019 last week, to just 21.8% behind this week.
Capacity in China has increased by more than a third (37.8%) compared to last week, reminding us that there are few country markets capable of switching capacity on in this way.
Greece continues its steady growth this week, adding 5.5% capacity week on week and now reaching heights of 8.5% above 2019. Only four of the top 20 country markets remain above 2019 this week- India, Mexico, Vietnam and Greece.
Staff shortages are being blamed for much of the recent disruption, particularly in Europe, with airports and airlines struggling to bring staff on board fast enough.
These, OAG points out, are jobs where many of the previous staff who were furloughed have found other employment and new hires need to undergo security screening and training.

Last updated: June 08 2022 07:36 PM


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