According to the latest OAG FACTS (Frequency and Capacity Trends Statistics), there will be 953,083 fewer seats and 21,401 fewer flights across the continent in August as airlines consolidate and reduce services to cope with falling demand.
Already for the year to date, flights within this market have decreased 2% and seat capacity has fallen by 1% compared with the first eight months of 2011.
“Against the backdrop of a slowing economy the North American region is experienincing general consolidation of its internal air scheduled air services” said rob Shaw, OAG’s director of analytics.
“This is partly the natural consequence of the well-publicised airline mergers of recent years, but it also reflects the strategy of individual carriers in a tough trading environment: reducing capacity to maintain fares at a profitable level.”
Today’s worrying figures come after IATA said North American airlines had reported a slight decrease in demand in June.
Only three of North America’s top 10 hubs (San Francisco at 7%, Charlotte at 5% and Toronto at 4%) will show significant growth in seat capacity this month.
Continued growth in the Middle East
North America’s flights and seats to and from other worldwide regions will both show a 2% increase in August, offering some better news, but the biggest growth in long-haul traffic is seen in the Middle East – driven largely by the UAE and Dubai in particular. This month will see flight operations to and from the Middle East grow by 7% to 64,252, while seat capacity will increase by 8% to reach 14,219,564 – nearly 4,000 more flights and more than a million more seats offered than in August 2011. Traffic within the Middle East region is also expected to grow by 4% (flights) and 3% (seats).
The Middle East region’s key hubs are all experiencing strong year-on-year growth in August, with Abu Dhabi seeing seats increasing by 248,896 (up 17%), Doha by 244,470 (11%) and Bahrain by 114,560 (11%). By far the strongest performer in the region however is Dubai, with 782,544 additional seats and 2,694 additional flight operations compared with August 2011.
“Strategically, the Middle East is growing in importance all the time, particularly in terms of its links with Western Europe,” said Shaw.
“While capacity reductions are continuing on several key routes between Western Europe and the Asia-Pacific region, more than 400,000 extra seats are now offered between Western Europe and the Middle East. Of these, more than 70% are on services to and from Dubai and Abu Dhabi, largely reflecting the continued expansion plans of the premier Gulf-based airlines.”
Global flights up by 1% and seats by 3%
Dubai, with its 12% increase in flight operations and 14% increase in seat capacity, is also showing the fastest growth among the major global air hubs.
Seat capacity at eight of the world’s top 10 airports will grow this month. Beijing’s year-on-year increase of 8% brings it ever closer to Atlanta as the world’s largest hub in terms of seats offered, while Tokyo’s offering increased by nearly 375,000 seats, up 5% on August 2011, securing its status as the world’s fourth-largest hub after London-Heathrow.
Worldwide, airlines have increased flights by 16,948 and seats by 9,608,208, taking the total scheduled flight operations for August 2012 to 2,789,437 and the total of seats offered to 361,193,356. This represents growth of 1% in flights but 3% in seats, which is explained by the increased use of larger aircraft. Average aircraft seat capacity is 129 this month compared with 127 in August 2011.
For the year to date, scheduled flights show a growth of 2% and seat capacity an increase of 3% compared with the January-August period last year.