Which airports are seeing the biggest festive cheer this holiday season?

Traveller trends change over the holiday season and while some markets actually see an upturn in demand, there is a general softening in the market. Much of this reduction is from the corporate side as business passengers take time away from work with their friends and families, but leisure demand can rise for the same reason as families take advantage of the holiday period and company shutdowns.


Summary:

  • Air travel capacity varies significantly over the past two weeks of the calendar year with a pre-holiday season boom and subsequent lull;
  • Over the two week period from 21-Dec-2018 through to 03-Jan-2019 there are scheduled to be 1.4 million flights offering over 210 million seats;
  • The busiest day during the period for air travel is 21-Dec-2018, followed by 28-Dec-2018 and 27-Dec-2018. The quietest day is unsurprisingly 25-Dec-2018.

Looking closely at schedules for this coming week, the planned number of global flights will fall to the lowest level seen since the second week of February. It will be the eighth lowest weekly frequency count for 2018. However, interestingly, the OAG data shows that this does not marry with available capacity – schedules for the week commencing 24-Dec-2018 show that while it is below the annual weekly average, it is only the 16th lowest weekly total for the calendar year.

CHART – Although flights and frequencies will decline in the week ahead to below average levels for the year, they remain higher than levels seen at the start of the year (frequencies) and even last month (capacity)Source: The Blue Swan Daily and OAG

The data for 2018 clearly shows a seasonal peak in demand ahead of the holiday period with week 51 of the year (17-Dec-2018 – 23-Dec-2018) showing a notable uplift in both flights and capacity to levels last seen in late Oct-2018 at the conclusion of the northern hemisphere summer schedules.

The Blue Swan Daily thought it would be interesting to highlight which will be the busiest airports over the holiday period and which will see the largest rise in capacity. Looking at travel for the two week period from 21-Dec through to 03-Jan there are scheduled to be 1.4 million flights offering over 210 million seats. This is up +4.8% and +6.1% versus the same period in 2017/2018.

The busiest day during the period for air travel is 21-Dec-2018, followed by 28-Dec-2018 and 27-Dec-2018. The quietest day is unsurprisingly 25-Dec-2018, followed by 31-Dec-2018 and 24-Dec-2018. Frequencies on the busiest day during the two week period are more than a quarter (+29%) higher than the quietest day with capacity also up +25.1%.

In terms of departures the busiest airports during the period correlate to those for the full year. The top six airports are no different: Chicago O’Hare, Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson, Los Angeles, Dallas Fort Worth, Beijing Capital and Denver. But, it is all change for the rest of the top ten – Jakarta Soekarno–Hatta International swaps places with Charlotte-Douglas between seventh and eighth, while the Chinese hubs of Shanghai Pudong and Guangzhou Baiyun replace their European counterparts Frankfurt and Amsterdam Schiphol in ninth and tenth.

In terms of capacity things look very differently. Beijing Capital International is the world’s largest airport by seat capacity during the period, while Dubai International jumps ahead of Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson, pushing the world’s biggest airport by passengers down to third during the analysis period. Tokyo Haneda and Los Angeles make up the top five, while Jakarta Soekarno–Hatta International (up from tenth for the full year to sixth), Hong Kong International, Chicago O’Hare, London Heathrow and Shanghai PuDong complete the top ten.

But, which airports have the most to celebrate compared to last year? The largest percentage rise in capacity during the two week seasonal period in 2018/2019 versus last year among the world’s top 50 airports is at Moscow Sheremetyevo, with double digit rises also being seen at Doha Hamad International, Xi’an Xianyang International and Orlando International.