Central and Eastern Europe records largest growth in global airline capacity as industry kicks-off year with strong seat growth

Global aviation capacity increased 5.2% year-on-year in January, new research from The Blue Swan Daily reveals. The annual growth (versus Jan-2018) is slightly ahead of the decade average, which stands at 5.0%, but is down on the greater than 6% levels recorded in each of the past three Januarys – 6.5% in 2016, 6.9% in 2017 and 6.1% in 2018. Since the start of the decade, global January departure capacity has grown by more than a half, rising 56.4% to over 462 million seats.

The analysis of schedule data from intelligence provider OAG shows that the Central and Eastern Europe region has spearheaded the Jan-2019 departure seat growth, rising 12.1% versus Jan-2018. The Upper South America region also delivered a double-digit performance with a 10.0% rise in departing seats, while the Middle East saw the only regional decline with capacity slipping -0.2%, a fall of just over 41,000 departure seats or around 1,330 per day during the month.

Lower South America also witnessed an above average level of growth for the month of 6.1%, slightly less than the Caribbean, up 6.7%, but more than Central America, up 4.4%. The largest and most mature markets of Western Europe and North America recorded 5.5% and 3.6% growth in seats, while the Southwest Pacific saw a shallow 0.1% rise in departure capacity.

North East and South Asia both recorded strong growth rates of 8.9% and 7.7%, while much slower levels were seen in Central Asia (2.5%) and South East Asia, which saw departure seat levels rise by less than 0.1%. Africa recorded solid growth throughout with Eastern Africa (9.1%) and Central/Western Africa (8.4%) leading the way ahead of Northern Africa (5.4%) and Southern Africa (5.0%).

The strong Central and Eastern Europe performance was influenced by the Russian Federation market, which saw the largest rise in capacity among the Top 25 aviation markets, with a 17.8% year-on-year rise in departure seats in Jan-2019. China (10.8%) and India (9.8%) are continuing their rapid rise, while the European markets of Germany (9.7%) and Spain (8.5%) delivered strong year-on-year growth. The latter’s performance is most likely influenced by the collapse of airberlin and Monarch Airlines in the second half of 2017, and the subsequent impact it had on winter 2017/2018 schedules.

The OAG data also highlights Indonesia as a standout performer in Jan-2019, but not for the right reasons. The schedule data from OAG shows a significant -10.9% reduction in departure seats for the month compared with last year. This appears erroneous and likely influenced by flight fillings within Indonesia’s domestic market. Australia (-0.1%), Turkey (-1.3%) and United Arab Emirates (-2.1%) were the only other nations within the Top 25 ranking to see a reduction in departure capacity in Jan-2019 versus Jan-2018.

With the second largest rate of growth among the top 25 aviation markets in Jan-2019 (10.1%) and the only major market within the parameter to record double-digit growth, Colombia breaks into the ranking after pushing out Taipei and also leaping Singapore and Netherlands.

CHART – The world’s top 25 aviation markets in Jan-2019 by departure capacity generally recorded growth versus Jan-2018Source: The Blue Swan Daily and OAG

Looking wider among the 100 largest aviation markets, it is Uzbekistan that saw the largest rise in January departure capacity between 2019 and 2018, up 41.2%. Notable growth was also recorded by Georgia (24.2%), Ukraine (21.3%), Puerto Rico (21.2%), Austria (18.9%), Kenya (16.3%), Argentina (16.1%) and Israel (15.1%). Chile, Portugal, Qatar, Peru, Greece, Morocco, Bahrain, Macau, Jordan, Costa Rica, El Salvador and Laos all also reported double digit capacity rises in Jan-2019 when compared to Jan-2018.

The reintroduction of international sanctions against Iran explains why the Islamic Republic saw the largest decline in January departure capacity between 2018 and 2019, with seats down more than a fifth (-21.7%). Double-digit year-on-year capacity declines were also seen by Papua New Guinea (-17.6%), Cuba (-12.1%) and Sudan (-10.9%), while Sri Lanka (-6.0%), Myanmar (-5.6%) and Kazakhstan (-4.0%) also witnessed falls in departure seats.