The global growth in scheduled flights continues again in February 2012 with a noticeable increase of 5% in frequency. The number of seats naturally increased similarly albeit slightly higher at 6% reflecting a larger average aircraft size. As with January, the average aircraft size is 126 however it is creeping towards 127 for February 2012 (a 1.1% increase against February 2011). From a top level perspective, there is a natural churn of airline fleet and the result is more often than not larger capacity aircraft – typically evidenced through the newer ‘next generation’ aircraft (both narrow and wide body).
Looking at the main regional markets this month, the only region to not record growth, was the to/from Africa market. Frequencies for the month are down 3% year on year and available seat capacity is down 2%. Whilst the reduction is less than in January, all other regions have increased capacity – even within North America which is arguably the most mature regional market. There are differing trends for specific country markets which will be explored in more detail.
The largest growth year on year by region is within Central & South America which recorded a 14.3% increase in available seats and 13.5% increase in frequencies. Routes to/from Middle East also delivered significant growth with an increase of 13% for both available seats and frequencies. Asia Pacific also delivered double digit growth year on year as the market continues to press ahead with strong capacity expansion.
In terms of total volume growth, it is no surprise that the within Asia Pacific region remains the clear leader with an increase of almost 8.9 million seats in February 2012 against 2011. Within Central & South America is unsurprisingly number 2 with an increase of over 2.9 million seats year on year – this compares with the increase of 2.7 million in January.
To put this volume growth in context, these two regions represent 64% of the total global volume growth for the month. Remarkably, the within Asia Pacific region is now responsible for over 31% of the total global volume. Notably, within North America is now 23% (having been 34% in February 2003).
Global low cost scheduled capacity again increased significantly year on year – 18% compared to 13% in January. Low cost now accounts for 26% of global air capacity compared to 11% in 2003. The highest regional growth in terms of available seats is to/from North America (50%) followed by to/from Central & South America and within Asia Pacific (both 47%).
Low cost within Asia Pacific now accounts for 25% of the regional volume.
Major Hub Airports
Whilst Atlanta remains the largest airport in the world by both schedule frequency and seat capacity, Beijing is closing fast in terms of seat capacity. The gap is now ‘only’ 251,000 seats per month – one year ago, this was some 826,000. For Beijing, this is evidenced by an increase of 12% year on year.
Third in the ranking is London Heathrow which delivered an increase of 5% in available seats which, given the slot constraints at the airport, is largely driven by a 2% increase in average aircraft size – now 199. Tokyo Haneda and Chicago O’Hare round out the top 5 capacity providers however both recording decreases for the month (1.5% and 1.4% respectively).
Thereafter, we have Bangkok and Dubai and given their growth rates for February 2012 against 2011 (17% and 15%), we are likely to see further changes to the ‘rankings’ in the coming months.
The top 10 airports by capacity deliver over 66 million seats per month.
In terms of volume growth (available seats) for the month, 7 airports added over 500,000 seats each in February – Istanbul Ataturk, Bangkok, Beijing, Dubai, Jakarta, Singapore and Bogota.
Based on frequency growth, these 7 airports are again at the top.
As mentioned, the total available seats for to/from Africa declined year on year however the opposite is true for within Africa for both frequencies and available seats (9% and 8% growth respectively).
Official capacity reductions have clearly filtered through the continent in general following the various national issues that are well documented in the last 12 months or so. That being true, airports such as Tripoli are starting to see international services return. Qatar Airways recommences service to Tripoli 3 times per week (via Alexandria/Borg el Arab) from 2 February and alongside Etihad from mid-January and KLM and others to come, capacity is starting to return.
Globally, three of the ten top growth airports in terms of percentage uplift in available seats for the month are African airports, with Kigali (Rwanda) expanding by the greatest amount (+71%).
In terms of the main international routings to/from Africa, London and Paris are naturally perhaps the two largest markets by seat capacity. And, although international markets to/from the continent declined in February, there are some growth markets – Brussels for one, recording an increase of 3% in available seats. Ethiopian Airlines has increased service to daily from the start of the year and Brussels Airlines will be initiating a number of changes next month including the transfer of the Swiss Cameroon operation, where it currently operates 3 weekly Zurich – Douala – Yaounde service, to Brussels.
Traffic to/from the region grew by 6% year on year with an additional 930,000 seats for the month and frequencies increased by 9%. Additionally, even although it is generally a very mature market, within North America grew by 1%.
As highlighted above in the year on year comparison, there is a larger increase in frequency opposed to capacity. Looking at USA & Canada more specifically, we can see that the average aircraft size has declined gradually since 2003. This is the reverse of the global picture – to/from USA & Canada is down 2.4% for the period 2003 – 2012 as opposed to the global figure of +14%.
Tokyo remains the biggest contributor of Asia Pacific seat capacity to North America with almost 800,000 available seats for the month despite a drop of 2% year on year. Seoul Incheon is now up to 440,000 seats (+11% for February 2012 against February 2011), maintaining its position ahead of Hong Kong which supplies approximately 396,000 (+20% for the month).
At over 1.5 million seats for the month, London Heathrow is the biggest Western Europe market to North America and of the top 8 airport markets London Heathrow represents over 42% of the capacity.
In this particular segment, it is interesting to note the relationship between seats and frequencies – in years of growth, capacity outstrips frequency with the reverse being true in years of decline.
Available scheduled seat capacity to/from the region increased by 5% for the month with over 984,000 additional seats – frequency growing by 4% for the month.
Available capacity within the region grew by a smaller margin, 3% however this still represents an additional 1.79 million seats for the month.
As with the North American market, Europe is one of the more mature markets however the trends within the region in terms of aircraft size perhaps reflects the growth of European LCCs, the increasing issue of slot availability and therefore the move away from (smaller) regional jets in many markets. In contrast to the above levels, Low Cost grew by 7% in the month representing over 1.3 million seats. Low Cost now represents 35% of the within Europe capacity having been 11% in February 2003
The trend of average aircraft size in Europe is similar to the overall global trend however the rate of growth as a whole since 2003 is markedly higher – 23% as opposed to 14% for the global average. Perhaps demonstrating some of the trend indicators mentioned above. The growth rates in recent years suggest that this is slowing somewhat and it is questionable how this will develop in the future as available airport capacity becomes more scarce and pressure is increased on infrastructure and air space.
Available scheduled seat capacity to/from Asia Pacific grew by 11% for the month with over 1.45 million additional seats. Frequency also grew significantly at 12%.
Asia/Pacific has five of the top ten airports by growth in capacity in February (year on year) with Bangkok, Beijing, Jakarta, Singapore and Manila representing almost 3.5 million additional seats for the month – 19% of the total worldwide growth for the month.
Of the many highlights of additional air service, Thai Air Asia has introduced new services and Cathay Pacific is increasing the Paris CDG service, moving from single daily to double daily.
To put the growth in a little further context, in terms of global growth by airport, the top 10 Asia Pacific airports are in the top 22 globally (the numbers above representing each airports position for the month of February). The lowest growth rate for the month here is Hong Kong at 8% however it is the 3rd largest airport here (although almost the same size as Bangkok).
Printer friendly version: OAG FACTS Executive Summary February 2012
OAG FACTS was compiled by ASM using OAG data.