In some countries the number 111 is believed to bring bad luck. In cricket it is called a “Triple Nelson”, feared by Australian cricketers more than an English bowling attack, but we might just be at the moment when after 111 days from the 20th January that we begin to see some modest capacity growth at a global level.
The latest data shows a two percent increase in weekly capacity with some 29.8 million scheduled seats this week representing a small but very important 600,000 more than the previous week with pockets of growth occurring in eight of the seventeen regional markets analysed. Total capacity is now at 29.9 million seats; some 80 million fewer seats than operated in the same week last year which highlights how far the global market has been impacted.
Interestingly, this time last week the forward-looking capacity suggested that some 32.3 million seats would be operated this week, that fell back by some 8% as airlines continue to make last minute adjustments to their schedules with less than a week’s notice. The forward looking capacity for next week now stands at 42.3 million; very close to the number reported a week earlier; it is very likely that whilst we make breakthrough the 30-million-mark next week, 42 million would be a step too far.
Chart 1 – Scheduled Airline Capacity by Week Compared to Schedules Filed on 20th January 2020 & Previous Year
For some weeks North-East Asia has been showing signs of some recovery in capacity, driven of course by the growth in Chinese capacity where a further one million domestic seats were added back this week to the schedules. Hong Kong was another market to report some positive news with Cathay Pacific adding back some 40,000 seats and growing frequency by some 120 flights over the seven days; at around eight round trip flights a day hardly earth shattering but nevertheless a positive step.
Similarly, from a small base, there are signs of recovery in South America, the North and South regions reporting double digit capacity growth on the previous week. Indeed, only one region, South Asia reports a double-digit decline amongst the top ten global regions and even here a potential reopening of domestic services in India before the 15th May could see capacity bounce back next week.
Table 1 – Scheduled Airline Capacity by Region
As a result of some 800,000 additional domestic seats being added in China the domestic share of global capacity has now crept up to 85% highlighting both the importance of air services in some markets and also where we should expect to see the initial signs of recovery. China’s domestic capacity stands at 75% of January’s level, the United States at 27% and Russia at 49% of pre COVID-19 levels; for anyone interested the UK level is now some 4%!
Chart 2 – Domestic & International Capacity Splits, All Markets
The top ten country market table continues to combine a mix of the regular candidates with some traditionally smaller countries where capacity has been maintained or some signs of recovery are underway. China continues to “bask” in number one position ahead of the United States operating twice as many seats as they continue to trump their competitor. The top five country markets are actually the same this week as reported on the 20th January although not one of them is in the same position.
Vietnam was in 19th position seventeen weeks ago and the Philippines in 23rd place. The absence of any Western European country in the top ten global markets illustrates how damaging COVID-19 has been with the United Kingdom (now 13th), Germany (now 15th) and Spain now 23rd just as the traditional summer season begins to build.
Table 2- Scheduled Capacity, Top 10 Country Markets
In the last six weeks we have highlighted the extremely high levels of cancellations in the US domestic market as airlines continued to schedule services and then actively cancel at the last minute as demand evaporated. The last two weeks have seen all of the major US airlines reduce the number of scheduled domestic flights, as some 16,250 flights have been “unscheduled” over the last two weeks which is around a 25% cut. Reassuringly, the level of cancellations has correspondingly dropped to 9% since the beginning of May and in the last five days to just below 4%, still slightly higher than normal operational levels but much improved on recent times. In this instance, fewer is better, at least from an operational perspective.
Chart 3 – US Scheduled Domestic Capacity and Cancellations, 1st April – 10th May 2020
Aviation has, in the last twenty years, created amazing connectivity across the globe, in many cases allowing one-stop connectivity to almost any location and bring increased trade and tourism with that connectivity. Its importance cannot be underestimated which might well explain the levels of support that many Governments are making today to even the most failing of carriers. At the end of January there were some 24,400 airport pairs operated at least once weekly; that is now down to just above 13,000 as airlines suspend networks and retrench back to the core networks established over many years.
The busiest route in the world seventeen weeks ago is still the busiest route, Seoul Gimpo to Jeju for anyone planning a holiday; whilst Melbourne – Sydney once at one thousand flights a week is now down to 38 weekly services. But perhaps more importantly it is those markets served perhaps daily that are no longer operated where the greatest damage has occurred to the economy, routes such as Istanbul – Kigali where for Kigali access to the world has just been made a lot harder because of COVID-19.
Chart 4 – Number of Scheduled Airport Pairs Operated
As we have always said, capacity is but one half of the equation and increasingly the discussion is turning to the recovery in demand. Quite how that will shape up is anyone’s guess with so many variables at play. A new analytical tool from OAG released last week will show some of the patterns in the coming weeks and we will include some highlights (a relative phrase!) in the coming weeks as confidence rebuilds and lockdowns ease.
The last seventeen weeks have been horrid; weekly updates in which capacity has been cut further and further do not make a great start to the week and the subsequent impact across the industry devastating. We might just be at the point of a Triple Nelson knocking COVID-19 for six but the damage to the industry will sadly be around for some time yet.
Coronavirus: Monitoring passenger jet activity through the hibernation phase
Andrew Doyle & Ray Rigamonti review Cirium’s latest fleets & utilization data to monitor aircraft during the hibernation phase in Coronavirus times
At this point the time frames of the hibernation phase are unknown. We expect markets to enter the rebuild and the consolidation stages at different times depending on the spread of Covid-19. Find out more about how Cirium can help you understand how the industry is responding to Covid-19.
A net decrease in the global stored passenger jet fleet of just under 130 since yesterday’s (12th May) update has taken the overall proportion of inactive aircraft down a single percentage point to 60%.
We classify an aircraft as stored following 14 days of inactivity, and return it to in-service status if it flies on three of the preceding seven days, or five of the previous 14. For the purposes of this daily update we include all widebodies, narrowbodies and regional jets equipped with a passenger cabin regardless of whether they have been temporarily deployed for cargo-only services.
Tracking data for Monday 11th May showed a 4.5% increase in active aircraft, 5.4% uplift in flights and 8.1% improvement in flight hours, compared with the seventh day prior (4th May). Compared with 364 days prior, these metrics show declines of 70.3%, 80.7% and 82.3% respectively, bringing into stark relief the scale of the recovery challenge that confronts the industry.
Our data visual today shows fly/no fly days for individual aircraft in the British Airways narrowbody and widebody fleets over the course of the 90-day perior to 11th May. The comparison – where red indicates an aircraft did not fly – illustrates how the UK flag-carrier’s twin-aisle aircraft were typically grounded later than its shorthaul aircraft following the onset of the coronavirus crisis.
A 9% increase in both average daily tracked flight hours and cycles for passenger jets was recorded for week 19 of 2020 (the seven days up to and including Sunday 10th May), compared with the previous week.
This represented the second consecutive week of improvement as week 18 (seven days to 3rd May) saw average daily hours and cycles improve by 8% and 7% respectively, compared with week 17 which had declines of 4% and 6%. Prior to that there were several consecutive weeks of decline in widebody, narrowbody and regional jet flight activity.
The latest seven day rolling average figures – for week 19 to 10th May – also indicate higher average daily aircraft utilisation compared with the previous week, with the number of in-service jets tracked up 4% but average flight hours per aircraft up 5%. The average number of aircraft tracked daily during the week was just under 5,800, and each flew an average of 5.7 hours per day.
Meanwhile a net decrease in the stored passenger jet fleet of just over 50 was recorded since yesterday’s (11th May) update. At approximately 16,000, the inactive passenger jet fleet remains at just under 61% of the global inventory.
A net increase in the stored passenger jet fleet of just over 100 has been recorded since our previous update on Thursday 7th May. The newly withdrawn aircraft mainly comprised Boeing 737 NG, Airbus A320 Family and Bombardier CRJ models.
At approximately 16,000, the inactive fleet of widebodies, narrowbodies and regional jets remains at just under 61% of the global inventory.
While the in-service fleet has stabilised at approximately 10,300 for the past week, we continue to record positive trends in tracking data.
Saturday 9th May saw active passenger jet aircraft up 6%, flight cycles up 14% and hours flown up 14% compared with Saturday 2nd May. However these global metrics remain adverse by 73%, 82% and 84% respectively compared with 11th May 2019 (364 days prior).
The seventh-day-prior metrics have remained mainly positive for nearly two weeks, with the exception of 7th May when slight declines were recorded.
On 10th May 2020, Avianca filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the USA and will shutter its Avianca Peru subsidiary as the shutdown of air travel amid the coronavirus pandemic obliterates revenues. Cirium’s utilization data shows the stark realities of the impact of Covid-19 on the carrier, as passenger jet flights fell dramatically from the middle of March 2020.
The stored passenger jet fleet has again remained stable at just below 61%, with just over 15,900 widebodies, narrowbodies and regional jets classified by Cirium’s researchers as inactive.
While the in-service fleet has stabilised at approximately 10,300 in recent days, we continue to record positive trends in tracking data.
Tuesday 5th May saw active aircraft up 7.3%, flight cycles up 19% and hours flown up 17% compared with Tuesday 28th April. However these global metrics remain adverse by 71%, 81% and 83% respectively compared with 7th May 2019 (364 days prior). These seventh-day-prior metrics have remained positive for eight consecutive days.
Passenger jet tracking data for Monday 4th May extends the positive trend as measured by active aircraft (up 6%), flight cycles (14%) and hours flown (13%) compared with Monday 27th April. However these metrics remain adverse by 72%, 82% and 84% respectively compared with 6th May 2019 (364 days prior).
The improvement in the global picture observed over the past week continues to be driven primarily by Asia-based carriers where lock-downs in some countries are being eased and airlines are reinstating scheduled flights.
Our figures include jet airliners normally configured for passenger operations and therefore incorporate activity by such aircraft that are temporarily being deployed for cargo-only services (belly freight or in some cases packages transported in the passenger cabin, with or without some seats removed).
Our data visual today shows the proportions of passenger jet family fleets that were tracked making at least one flight in the seven days up to and including 4th May. For this analysis we include only aircraft that we consider to have in-service or in-storage status, and which have also been observed making at least one flight since 1st January 2020. It again highlights the extent to which the active fleets of the largest passenger types (Airbus A380 and Boeing 747) have been impacted as a result of the coronavirus crisis.
There has been no material change in the overall proportion of global passenger jets with in-storage status (61%) since yesterday’s (5th May) update.
A sixth consecutive day of increase in scheduled flights flown by passenger jets – using the ‘seventh day prior’ metric – was recorded for Sunday 3rd May, lending more weight to the hypothesis that the industry’s operational low point may be behind it.
The data also shows there was a 7% increase in passenger jet flights for week 18 of 2020, compared with week 17.
Cirium’s tracking sources indicate an increase of over 8% in operated flights for 3rd May, compared with Sunday 26th April, and over 2% more aircraft were active and more than 5% additional flight hours were flown. These seventh-day-prior metrics have remained in positive territory since and including 28th April.
Source: Cirium Core, Tracked Utilization 5 May 2020
It is important to compare equivalent days of the week for this type of analysis to obtain a true picture of flight trends, as airline services typically follow a weekly pattern to reflect variations in passenger demand across the working week and weekends.
While the seventh-day-prior comparison remaining in positive territory for several days can be seen as an encouraging development – as some countries such as China begin to relax travel restrictions – globally operated scheduled flight cycles for 3rd May were nevertheless down nearly 83% compared with the equivalent day 364 days prior, reflecting the unprecedented crisis the aviation industry is facing.
Also, the number of flights operating does not necessarily reflect demand, with many services reported to be operating with extremely low load factors.
Meanwhile, Cirium’s researchers have determined that the in-service passenger jet fleet has grown by nearly 170 since yesterday’s (4th May) update, taking the global stored inventory down to just over 15,900 aircraft and below 61% of the total.
A net total of more than 50 Boeing widebodies rejoined the active fleet, alongside 30 Airbus twin-aisles and nearly 60 of the European manufacturer’s A320 Family models.
Cirium’s researchers have transferred a net total of nearly 140 passenger jets to in-service status since Friday’s (1st May) update, taking the stored passenger jet fleet below 16,100. This means just over 61% of the global inventory of widebodies, narrowbodies and regional jets is in storage – one percentage point lower than we reported on Friday.
These aircraft are stored at 876 airports around the world, with more than 2,000 spread amongst the top 10 locations. The ranks of inactive aircraft continue to grow steeply at Roswell International Air Center and Marana Pinal Airpark in the USA (currently ranked numbers one and three respectively).
As reported on the Cirium Dashboard, renowned investor Warren Buffet revealed on 2nd May his decision to sell his investment company Berkshire Hathaway’s holdings in US majors American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Southwest Airlines and United Airlines.
“We like those airlines. But the world has changed for the airlines,” he said. “I hope it corrects itself in a reasonably prompt way.”
Cirium’s tracking sources show the severe impact the Coronavirus crisis has had on total flight counts for these four carriers up to 2nd May, with little immediate respite in sight. However significantly greater numbers of flights continue to be flown within the US market compared with Europe, where an almost complete shutdown of scheduled flight operations has occurred.
Cirium tracking data has provided further tentative evidence that the global passenger jet fleet may have passed the nadir of scheduled flight activity in recent days. Wednesday 29th April marked the second consecutive day of increases in active aircraft, cycles and flight hours using the ‘seventh day prior’ metric (ie by comparison with Wednesday 22nd April). However overall flight cycles remained nearly 83% down compared with a year ago.
The Asia-Pacific region – driven predominantly by Chinese operators – saw roughly 1,000 net additional flight cycles by passenger widebodies, narrowbodies and regional jets on Wednesday, compared with the same day a week earlier, while the active aircraft count was up by approximately 140.
Europe also recorded an increase in flights compared with the seventh day prior, but from a far lower base (tracked flight cycles were down 95% compared with the equivalent day last year).
Cirium’s researchers have meanwhile returned 70 passenger jets to in-service status since yesterday’s (30th April ) update. The proportion of widebodies, narrowbodies and regional jets in storage globally remains at approximately 62%.
There has been in a net increase in the in-service fleet of over 600 aircraft over the past four days. We consider an aircraft to have returned to service following observed flight activity on at least three of the preceding seven days, or five of the preceding 14.
The first evidence of a potential bottoming-out of the global slump in commercial passenger jet flights due to coronavirus has emerged from analysis by Cirium using its 600-plus sources of tracking data.
A 4% increase in scheduled passenger flights flown was recorded for Tuesday 28th April when compared with Tuesday 21st April, marking the first positive value for this ‘seventh-day-prior’ rolling indicator since 5th March. It is important to compare equivalent days of the week for this type of analysis as airline flights typically follow a weekly pattern to reflect variations in passenger demand across the working week and weekends.
While the seventh-day-prior comparison moving back into positive territory can be seen as an encouraging development – as some countries such as China begin to relax travel restrictions – global scheduled flight cycles for 28th April were nevertheless down nearly 84% compared with the equivalent day 364 days prior, reflecting the unprecedented crisis the aviation industry is facing.
Meanwhile, Cirium has added just over 130 passenger jets (widebodies, narrowbodies and regional jets) to the active global fleet since yesterday’s (29th April update), taking the overall proportion of stored aircraft down to approximately 62%, or 16,300. This figure is two percentage points (or approximately 600 aircraft) lower than the peak recorded in mid-April.
We transfer stored aircraft to in-service status after observing flight activity on at least three of the prior seven days, or five of the prior 14.
The global stored passenger jet fleet has remained stable since yesterday’s update, at approximately 63% of total inventory.
A major news development this week – reported extensively by Cirium Dashboard – has been the collapse of the proposed joint venture between Boeing and Embraer. We therefore take this opportunity to look in more detail at the impact of the Coronavirus on the regional jet market.
Cirium classifies nearly 850 of the roughly 1,500 E170/175 and E190/195 twinjets as being in storage, alongside more than 450 of the approximately 700 remaining ERJ-135/140/145s.
Meanwhile about half of the approximately 1,500-strong fleet of Bombardier CRJs is currently in storage.
In terms of tracked aircraft the CRJ and E-Jet families both saw around 450 aircraft fly on Monday 27th April. Prior to the onset of the crisis a typical day saw more than 1,200 active E-Jets and around 1,000 CRJs. The number of smaller ERJs active daily has declined from around 400 to closer to 120.
As of 27th April, daily tracked flight cycles for all three families were down about 80% compared with 29th April 2019, with no immediate signs of recovery.
Cirium has recorded a net reduction in the global stored passenger jet fleet of just over 400 aircraft since yesterday’s (27th April) update. This coincided with the implementation of our decision announced last week to slightly revise our classification criteria to reflect the industry’s entry into the ‘hibernation phase’ of the Coronavirus crisis.
Notable developments in our latest update included a net increase in the in-service Airbus narrowbody fleet of A319/A320/A321s of more than 110, while the active inventory of Boeing 717s, 737s and 757s was up by over 80. On the widebody side we have classified about 100 additional 767s, 777s and 787s as having returned to service, alongside roughly 50 A330s, A340s and A350s.
The situation continued to improve in China, where we have returned over 100 passenger jets to in-service status during the past week.
Cirium’s researchers now require 14 days of observed inactivity to classify an aircraft as having entered storage, up from seven days previously. To be returned to in-service status an aircraft must fly on at least three of the previous seven days, or five of the previous 14.
We now put the global stored fleet of passenger widebodies, narrowbodies and regional jets at below 16,500 aircraft or just under 63% of the total inventory, down from the peak of approximately 16,800 (64%) which persisted for approximately two weeks.
Cirium continues to deploy its more than 600 sources of flight status and tracking data to monitor daily hours and cycles utilisation trends. Flying hours are a key driver of demand for aftermarket products and services and associated revenues, and so today we look at slowly recovering utilisation levels for scheduled services by Chinese operators for four widely used types.
On Monday 26th April 2020 Chinese A320 and 737 family operators logged more than 50% fewer flying hours compared with Monday 28th April 2019, although this represented a marked recovery from the mid-February 2020 low point where figures were over 80% down for each of these types.
Chinese-operated 787s meanwhile posted nearly 75% fewer scheduled flying hours than a year ago, while demand for A330/A340 Family flight hours appeared to be recovering more slowly, likely a reflection of the international travel restrictions that remain in place.
The global stored passenger jet fleet has remained stable at approximately 16,800 aircraft, equivalent to 64% of total inventory. There has been no significant change in this figure for approximately two weeks.
Today we use Cirium’s flight tracking sources to highlight the impact of Coronavirus on operations by Vietnam-based carriers, and to show potentially the first evidence of the very early stages of recovery in the country. As reported on Cirium Dashboard earlier today, Vietnam Airlines and Jetstar Pacific have begun reinstating domestic services on the key trunk route between Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City as the nation begins to emerge from lock-down.
Encouragingly, our data shows Vietnamese carriers operated a total of 35 scheduled passenger jet flights using 17 aircraft on Saturday 25th April, compared to just eight flights on Saturday 18th April with six aircraft (the majority operated by Vietnam Airlines). However this nevertheless represents a 96% reduction in flights – and 90% fewer active aircraft – compared with Saturday 27th April 2019.
We remain firmly in the hibernation phase of this crisis with 16,800 passenger jets (64% of the total fleet) classified as stored. There has been no material change in the net figure since yesterday, and the global total has remained more or less stable for the past 10 days now.
All eyes are on China as a potential leading indicator of the shape of the recovery that could be expected as and when other national travel restrictions are eventually lifted. Cirium’s tracking data recorded a low point of around 1,000 passenger jets being flown daily by Chinese airlines by mid-February, but this recovered to nearly 2,000 for the bulk of March and has remained around this level so far in April (see graphic). However we are still consistently seeing approximately 1,000 (36%) fewer active aircraft per day compared with a year prior.
Average daily flight hours per active aircraft also remains well down on pre-crisis levels, having been around 9.5 hours at the onset of the crisis but still hovering at around 5.5 as of 22nd April. This is partly a reflection of the fact that domestic operations continue to be proportionally less badly impacted than international services. Total daily tracked flight cycles and flight hours for Chinese-operated passenger jets remain down nearly 60% compared with a year earlier.
As we approach the beginning of May we will be watching closely to see whether more optimistic capacity scheduling by Chinese operators translates into increased passenger demand, and therefore fewer flight cancellations and ultimately increased utilisation of the Chinese passenger jet fleet.
Welcome to the first of our daily updates in which we track the operational status of the global passenger jet fleet during this unprecedented ‘hibernation’ period, following the spread of the Coronavirus and implementation of government-imposed travel restrictions.
During the course of the past several days we have seen the overall stored inventory of widebodies, narrowbodies and regional jets stabilise at approximately 16,700 aircraft, or 64% of the total fleet. However this net figure masks the significant churn that is occurring on a daily basis as hundreds of aircraft either enter or leave a period of storage.
In order for Cirium to be able to provide the most accurate and up to date picture of the stored fleet during the hibernation phase, we will be slightly modifying the criteria our researchers apply to determine the status of an individual aircraft, effective Monday 27th April.
From this date we will extend the period of observed inactivity required to classify an aircraft as stored, from the current seven consecutive days to 14. This is the criteria we applied prior to the start of the highly dynamic mass storage phase which characterised the past few weeks.
For an aircraft to return from stored status to in-service, we will continue to require flight activity on at least three of the preceding seven days, but in addition we will also accept five out of the preceding 14 days in recognition that a significant proportion of the fleet is seeing regular but highly sporadic utilisation.
We will meanwhile continue to include in this report insights drawn from Cirium’s more than 600 sources of flight status and tracking data. Today we show for the world’s largest carriers the proportion of their passenger jet fleets that have been tracked making at least one scheduled flight during the past seven days (data up is to and including Tuesday 21st April).
Sojern: Positive momentum in domestic travel in China, Hong Kong, South Korea, and Chinese Taipei
With our access to real-time traveller audiences and unmatched visibility into global travel demand, we’re in a unique position to share the current travel trends at the forefront of marketers’ minds. In this blog series, we’ll take a look at the data in order to aid travel marketers in their assessment of this worldwide event. They can use these trends to inform their marketing strategies during this period and be prepared for the recovery once the situation stabilises.
Since the last edition of our APAC findings, this week’s trends include drilling down on the Asia Pacific specifics,signs of positive momentum in domestic travel, highlighting which specific months in the future we can expect an uptick in travel and what is happening in Australia.
These insights are based on data collected on the 4th May, 2020.
APAC Experienced About 40% Decrease In Search From March Onwards
Following the World Health Organisation (WHO) declaring that COVID-19 was officially a pandemic, from 12th of March onwards, Asia Pacific was seen to have a 40% decrease in search volume. Following which, the individual countries within the region saw a further decrease in search intent as stricter travel restrictions came into play.
All Regions Year-To-Date Index in Searches
Positive Momentum in Domestic Travel in China, Hong Kong, South Korea, and Taiwan
While Mainland China outbound travel started declining in December, it has since reached a plateau. Trends show that domestic travel took a sharp drop in mid-January when China imposed a lockdown, but continues to improve since mid-February showing positive upticks. This trend comes amidst China being prominent in the news – politically, where a lengthy rebuttal of allegations was submitted over its handling of the COVID-19 outbreak and elsewhere in the country, Shanghai Disneyland reopened on 11th May to a reduced number of visitors, ending a three-month closure.
Source Market: China – Domestic Travel
Hong Kong domestic travel was on a decline, but is showing clear signs of recovery since mid-February. Hong Kong outbound travel declined until the end of January, but has started to show signs of recovery at the end of April. We noticed that this uptick is coming from Hong Kong to China specifically. While Hong Kong has been celebrating progress of the containment of the virus, are more troubles on the road ahead as riot police chased protesters over the Mother’s Day weekend?
Source Market: Hong Kong – Domestic Travel
South Korean domestic and outbound travel has seen a general decline since mid-December, but we are seeing a slight improvement in April. Following positive news of containment of the virus, over the weekend, South Korea warned of a second wave of cases as a new cluster formed around a number of nightclubs. Since then, the capital Seoul shut down all night clubs, bars, and discos.
Source Market: South Korea – Domestic Travel
Taiwan domestic travel has a slower decline than average and shows signs of recovery in the second week of April. Additionally, Taiwan outbound has been on a decline since mid-January, but has reached a plateau. Taiwan announced over the weekend that they had no new cases of COVID-19 to report, meaning the country has gone 28 days without reporting a single local transmission. This could reflect positively on travel trends in the near future.
Source Market: Taiwan – Domestic Travel
Webinar: A Focus on Asia Pacific For Hoteliers
In this regionally-focused webinar, we discussed how the pandemic has impacted the Asia-Pacific region, and provided some useful recommendations for what you can do now to help your business prepare for the recovery period. Sojern’s General Manager of APAC, Lina Ang, and Jason Chia, Manager of Customer Success, shared insights and answered your questions. Watch the replay here:
February 2021 Has The Highest Search Volume In The Last 28 Days Across Asia
Looking at our flight data and the flight searches conducted in the last 28 days, we can tell that travellers are searching and dreaming of a destination during some specific months ahead. February 2021 has the highest search volume intent. We believe that this could be due to the Chinese Lunar New Year and that travellers are looking for potential destinations to visit. Additionally, we noticed that September and November this year do have a high search volume and this could be due to the mid-Autumn Festival in China – just four months away!
Future Flight Departure Date Searches from East Asia, Oceania and Southeast Asia
What Is Happening Down Under In Comparison To Singapore And Hong Kong?
Hong Kong seems to have the highest search volume in November and this could be due to two anticipated events happening – The Airline Economic Growth and Fintech Conference. As for Singapore and Australia, February 2021 is the highest search month. Even though the numbers are still lower than last year’s volume, it is a positive sign that travellers are ‘dreaming’ and planning their next trip. Australia and New Zealand largely avoided high casualty cases introducing strict nationwide stay at home orders and border closures, including travelling between states. Positive signs coming out of Australia indicate that students of New South Wales and Queensland began returning to school this week on a limited basis, as the country’s rate of new infections continued to slow.
Future Flight Departure Date Searches to Australia, Hong Kong and Singapore
We’ll continue to share more insights as we monitor the situation and provide recommendations in this series. For the rest of the COVID-19 insights series click here.
IATA: Social distancing would make most airlines financially unviable
• With the outbreak of COVID-19, many governments implemented strict social distancing requirements to help limit the spread of the virus. Some governments have indicated that similar measures should be applied to air travel, including that airlines should leave empty seats between passengers in the aircraft. When such policies are pursued, the seat load factor of an aircraft is artificially capped.
• Depending on the aircraft type and the seat configuration, social distancing could reduce the available seat capacity by 33-50%. For example, with the popular 3-3 seat configuration, social distancing could mean leaving the middle seat empty on both sides of the aisle. In contrast, for turboprop aircraft with a 2-2 seat configuration, it could imply filling only one seat per row on each side of the aisle. If the entire global fleet of aircraft is considered, we estimate that such social distancing would reduce the bookable seat capacity to 62% of normal capacity.
• The proportion of seats filled on an aircraft (load factor) is an important driver of airline financial performance. Based on a sample of 122 airlines, on average, airlines break even at a load factor of 77%. Only 4 airlines in the sample could break even at load factors below 62%. The remaining 118 airlines would, with their current pricing policies, become loss-making at load factors below 62%.
• It is also debatable whether airlines would be able to achieve the full 62% load factor when the bookable capacity is capped. Due to seasonality of demand, achieved load factors can rarely average at higher than 80-85% of the bookable capacity. Even if a large number of aircraft are grounded currently and airlines have some possibility to optimize their fleet allocation between flights, we estimate that airlines could fill on average about 85% of 62%, i.e. 53% of their seats. Under this assumption, only two charter carriers in the sample would break even.
• In order to cover the costs of a flight with fewer passengers on board, airlines would likely need to increase air fares just to break even (i.e. without generating any profit). However, raising air fares in an environment where demand is expected to be weak and slow to recover is unlikely to be possible, at least initially.
UNWTO: International tourist numbers could fall 60-80% in 2020
International tourism down 22% in Q1 and could decline by 60-80% over the whole year
67 million fewer international tourists up to March translates into US$80 billion in lost exports
UNWTO has outlined three possible future scenarios depending on how the crisis unfolds
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a 22% fall in international tourist arrivals during the first quarter of 2020, the latest data from the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) shows. According to the United Nations specialized agency, the crisis could lead to an annual decline of between 60% and 80% when compared with 2019 figures. This places millions of livelihoods at risk and threatens to roll back progress made in advancing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili said: “The world is facing an unprecedented health and economic crisis. Tourism has been hit hard, with millions of jobs at risk in one of the most labour-intensive sectors of the economy.
Tourism has been hit hard, with millions of jobs at risk in one of the most labour-intensive sectors of the economy
Available data reported by destinations point to a 22% decline in arrivals in the first three months of the year, according to the latest UNWTO World Tourism Barometer. Arrivals in March dropped sharply by 57% following the start of a lockdown in many countries, as well as the widespread introduction of travel restrictions and the closure of airports and national borders. This translates into a loss of 67 million international arrivals and about US$80 billion in receipts (exports from tourism).
Although Asia and the Pacific shows the highest impact in relative and absolute terms (-33 million arrivals), the impact in Europe, though lower in percentage, is quite high in volume (-22 million).
International tourist arrivals, 2019 and Q1 2020 (% change)
International Tourism 2020 Scenarios
Prospects for the year have been downgraded several times since the outbreak and uncertainty continues to dominate. Current scenarios point to possible declines in arrivals of 58% to 78% for the year. These depend on the speed of containment and the duration of travel restrictions and shutdown of borders. The following scenarios for 2020 are based on three possible dates for the gradual opening up of international borders.
Scenario 1 (-58%) based on the gradual opening of international borders and easing of travel restrictions in early July
Scenario 2 (-70%) based on the gradual opening of international borders and easing of travel restrictions in early September
Scenario 3 (-78%) based on the gradual opening of international borders and easing of travel restrictions only in early December.
International tourist arrivals in 2020: three scenarios (YoY monthly change, %)
* Actual data through March includes estimates for countries which have not yet reported data. Source: UNWTO Note: The scenarios presented in this graph are not forecasts. They represent alternative monthly change in arrivals based on the gradual opening of national borders and lifting of travel restrictions on different dates, still subject to high uncertainty.
Under these scenarios, the impact of the loss of demand in international travel could translate into:
Loss of 850 million to 1.1 billion international tourists
Loss of US$910 billion to US$1.2 trillion in export revenues from tourism
100 to 120 million direct tourism jobs at risk
This is by far the worst crisis that international tourism has faced since records began (1950). The impact will be felt to varying degrees in the different global regions and at overlapping times, with Asia and the Pacific expected to rebound first.
Experts see recovery in 2021
Domestic demand is expected to recover faster than international demand according to the UNWTO Panel of Experts survey. The majority expects to see signs of recovery by the final quarter of 2020 but mostly in 2021. Based on previous crises, leisure travel is expected to recover quicker, particularly travel for visiting friends and relatives, than business travel.
The estimates regarding the recovery of international travel is more positive in Africa and the Middle East with most experts foreseeing recovery still in 2020. Experts in the Americas are the least optimistic and least likely to believe in recovery in 2020, while in Europe and Asia the outlook is mixed, with half of the experts expecting to see recovery within this year.
When do you expect tourism demand in your destination will start to recover?
When do you expect international demand for your destination will start to recover?
ACI: Ghana's Kotoka International Airport resumes domestic flights as signs of recovery appear
Ghana has become the first African country to resume domestic flights in the wake of COVID-19.
The Government has embarked on a disinfection exercise of the country’s major airports including Kotoka International Airport (KIA).
Kotoka International Airport has introduced and enforced new measures to prioritize the health and safety of passengers and staff, including temperature checks, the making the wearing of face masks mandatory, physical distancing protocols in the airport and on-board aircraft, and the increased use of sanitizer.
Deputy Minister for Aviation of Ghana Yaw Afful said: “The government is very interested in making sure that everybody in this country is safe, particularly those who are going to be getting on various aircraft. So, my message to them is make sure that all the protocols that have been set in place are followed.”
Chief Operations Officer at Africa World Airlines Sean Mendis said: “So far, the response has been very positive. We are positive that, as things begin to get back to normal and people get used to the protocols … that the numbers will increase.”
Passengers have been impressed with the enhanced safety measures at the airport.
Policy Brief: Airport Operational Practice – Examples for Managing COVID-19
We will travel again, but it will not be the same. Even if borders reopen, travellers must trust that boarding a plane is safe and that they will be able to enter the destination country. New health safety protocols and systems will need to be in place, and these have yet to be defined. As governments and industry plan for recovery in this new context and adapt to changing traveller behaviour, the use of digital identity and biometrics technologies could restore trust while also ensuring a seamless journey. However, these tools will only be effective if users feel that their data is protected. Privacy, consent and transparent data governance must be at the heart of any technical solution.
Here are two key areas of transformation in which digital technologies will shape the future of travel.
The most immediate and perhaps most visible change will be a shift to touchless travel from airport curbside to hotel check-in. Even with strict cleaning protocols in place, exchanging travel documents and touching surfaces through check-in, security, border control, and boarding still represent a significant risk of infection for both travellers and staff.
Automation across the entire sector will become the new norm. Biometrics are already a widely accepted solution for identity verification, and their use will become more widespread as physical fingerprint and hand scanners are phased out. More touchless options will come into play including contactless fingerprint, as well as iris and face recognition. Moreover, technology for touchless data-entry such as gesture control, touchless document scanning and voice commands are already being tested. Care must be taken to ensure these technologies are inclusive and to eliminate the risk of potential biases.
From now on, health could be embedded in every aspect of travel. According to a survey by the International Air Transport Association (IATA), measures such as visible sanitizing, screening and masks all increase passengers’ feelings of safety when thinking about travelling after COVID-19.
To date, there is no standard or agreement on the acceptable level of risk for reopening borders or allowing individuals to travel. Until a vaccine is developed, the focus is shifting to assessing the risk of individual passengers. With the passenger’s consent, travel companies and airlines could use personal data such as their age, underlying health conditions and travel history to compile an individual risk profile.
Efforts to develop health protocols and standards using digital technology for the travel and tourism industry are still in their initial stages. In the meantime, airlines such as Emirates are conducting on-site COVID-19 testing for passengers. European airports have begun drawing up industry guidelines for passenger health screening. While not new, the use of thermal cameras at airports is becoming more widespread. A number of symptom-tracking and contact-tracing apps now exist in many countries. Apple and Google are close to finalizing a contact-tracing software scheme for developers to build compatible apps.
New health-screening and tracking tools offer hope of a return to relaxed and confident travel. However, they have also brought privacy and data issues to the forefront of the discussion. Any solutions need to be transparent and secure if travellers are to embrace them. Data should be shared on an ‘authorized to know’ and ‘need to know’ basis, with informed consent and in line with applicable regulations.
The digital traveller
Many organisations are already well advanced in their digital journey. This must be accelerated to enable the new normal, help businesses to adapt to changed consumer behaviour and rebuild trust. Integrated digital identity solutions are key to realising touchless travel. They also allow organizations to draw on multiple data points to efficiently assess a person’s risk profile, enabling them to manage risks in real time.
The World Economic Forum’s Known Traveller Digital Identity initiative is an example of such an approach. This initiative brings together a global consortium of individuals, governments, authorities and the travel industry to facilitate safe and seamless journeys. Consortium partners can access verifiable claims of a traveller’s identity data to improve passenger processing and reduce risk. Travellers can manage their own profile, collect digital ‘attestations’ of their identity data and decide which information to share.
In a COVID-19 context, a traveller would be able to securely obtain and store trusted, verifiable health credentials such as immunizations or their health status in their digital identity wallets. This would be combined with other trusted, verifiable identity data from public or private entities.
Testing and health screening at airports is difficult to achieve at scale. Under schemes like Known Traveller Digital Identity, travellers would be able to consent to sharing their identity and health data in advance of the journey, allowing border officials to conduct any required risk assessments in advance of the journey while avoiding queuing and bottlenecks at airports.
What is the World Economic Forum doing about the coronavirus outbreak?
Collaboration is key
In this time of unprecedented change, governments and industry have a unique opportunity to redefine travel and build a more sustainable, agile, and resilient industry. This will not be possible without collaboration.
In the near term, stakeholders will need to cooperate to accelerate the use of digital technologies. Next, they will need to develop a cohesive policy and legal regime around the deployment of digital technologies that balance the protection of civil liberties and public health. The third challenge is to ensure that different digital identity solutions can operate together. The role of organizations such as the World Health Organization, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and the International Air Transport Association (IATA) will be critical to align health and aviation priorities, guidelines and policies.
Paper passports are still required as the main form of identity for travellers. In a contactless world, the adoption of standardized digital travel credentials and initiatives like IATA’s ONE ID concept, which promote the use of biometrics for a smoother journey, must be accelerated and adapted to this new context.
Ultimately, the pandemic is likely to speed up two trends that have been gathering steam for some time. One is seamless travel, where your face and body are your passport. The other is the idea of a decentralized identity. This means the individual is in possession of and controls their identity attributes, such as their date and place of birth and physical characteristics, but also travel history, health information and other data. Combined, these trends will ensure travel is enjoyable, efficient and safe.
ACI: Predicted global impact of COVID-19 on airport industry escalates
Loss of more than 4.6 billion passengers and $97 billion in revenue forecast for 2020
Montreal, 5 May 2020 – Airports Council International (ACI) World has released updated modelling that shows the worsening economic impact on the global airport industry.
The forecasts of prolonged – and more widespread – impacts and effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have resulted in worsening predictions for traffic and revenue losses for airports across all regions.
ACI World now estimates a reduction of more than two billion passengers at the global level in the second quarter of 2020 and more than 4.6 billion passengers for all of 2020. The estimated decline in total airport revenues on a global scale is estimated to be $39.2 billion (figures in US Dollars) in the second quarter and more than $97 billion for 2020.
This outlook provides yet another stark illustration of the need for government assistance for airports to preserve essential operations and to protect the jobs and livelihoods of the millions of people that work in airports around the world. Last week, ACI World and the International Air Transport Association (IATA) came together to call for urgent tax relief and direct financial assistance that is to the benefit of the entire aviation ecosystem.
“The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on airports, the wider aviation ecosystem, and the global economy continues to worsen and represents an existential threat to the industry unless governments can provide appropriate relief and assistance,” ACI World Director General Angela Gittens said.
“As traffic and revenue have collapsed, the airport industry has taken all possible measures to preserve stability, but the challenge remains that a significant portion of airport costs are fixed.
“Airports are critical in the air transport ecosystem which is a key driver of local, regional and national economies and the communities they serve, and this global economic multiplier effect needs to be safeguarded to help underpin recovery.
“Jobs need to be protected and airports given financial support so people can rapidly return to work while operations can be scaled up to meet demand as the industry restarts.”
ACI World has applauded those governments around the world that have acted to support airport jobs and operations, but time is running out for assistance to be provided.
ACI World has called for comprehensive financial relief including wage subsidy schemes to allow continued operations and a rapid return to full operations, the protection of airport charges and revenues, urgent tax relief to provide much-needed financial oxygen to airports to ensure continuity of operations and safeguard airport jobs, waivers to airport rents and concession fees, the continuation of charges on air cargo operations to maintain essential airside and cargo facilities. Grants and subsidies, secured financing, loans at preferential rates, and bank guarantees should be made available.
“Financial relief and assistance is urgently needed but it is crucial for the prospects of a balanced recovery that any assistance benefits the entire aviation ecosystem and does not target once sector over other,” Angela Gittens said.
Sojern: COVID-19: Insights on Travel Impact, The Middle East and Africa #25
With our access to real-time traveller audiences and unmatched visibility into global travel demand, we’re in a unique position to share the current travel trends at the forefront of marketers’ minds. In this blog series, we’ll take a look at the data in order to aid travel marketers in their assessment of this worldwide event. They can use these trends to inform their marketing strategies during this period and be prepared for the recovery once the situation stabilises.
These insights are based on data collected on the 4th May, 2020. We will be reviewing our data on a weekly basis in order to provide a regular view of trends and patterns in consumer behaviour. Sojern’s insights are based on over 350 million traveller profiles and billions of travel intent signals, however it does not capture one hundred percent of the travel market.
Loosened Lockdown Measures in the UAE Lead to Increased Domestic Hotel Searches and Bookings
There has been a lot of news from the region this week with regards to the easing of lockdown measures and travel restrictions being lifted. Travelling between Emirates in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is now allowed and, as a result, a selection of hotels have begun to open their doors and are promoting staycations for UAE residents. These include Sofitel The Palm and Fairmont Ajman. The director general of Dubai’s Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM), Helal Al Marri, has announced the possibility of Dubai being opened to tourists again from the beginning of July.
The announcement of travel restrictions being lifted means that residents can begin to plan local trips, maybe in place of previous holidays or travel plans. When looking at searches and bookings made from within the UAE to local hotels, Abu Dhabi in particular has seen a dramatic increase in local travel intent, and confidence within a range of 30 miles. In January, bookings for travel within 30 miles made up 48% of the bookings (for travel up to a distance of 200 miles), and in April accounted for 77%. Searches show the same pattern rising from 55% to 78%. Domestic travel from Dubai reflects this story too, with 91% of searches and bookings now being for within a 30 mile radius.
Domestic Hotel Bookings vs Searches With Travel Distance – Lead Time 0-91+ Days
On the other hand, Expo 2020 Dubai announced that it will be postponed by a year and is now set to begin 1st October 2021 and run until 31st March 2022. This will of course have a negative impact on international travel to the region for 2020. Flight suspensions continue across the region, with Etihad extending suspension of all passenger flights until June 16th. As layoffs continue to be seen across regional airlines, both Sir Tim Clark, President of Emirates Airline, and Tony Douglas, Group Chief Executive Officer of Etihad Aviation Group, are said to believe that 85% of the world’s airlines are at risk of insolvency. This is all reflected in the flight bookings to the region which remain considerably down year-over-year, similar levels to last week.
Year-Over-Year Change Global Flight Bookings to MEA
Global Hotel Searches to the Middle East and Africa Continue to Show the Most Resilience but Booking Lead Times Increase
The Middle East and Africa (MEA) remains the most resilient region to the impact of the pandemic when comparing hotel searches globally. As of mid-April there has been an uptick in searches which suggests that global travellers have not lost the desire to travel to the region, and intend to visit once they are allowed. This uptick will likely continue to grow as hotels are reopened and travel restrictions are lifted.
Year-Over-Year Change in Global Hotel Search/Booking Events – Indexed to Jan 5, 2020
A higher percentage of international travellers are searching and booking further ahead now, than they were in January. This indicates that although they are still dreaming of, and planning trips to the region, they are doing so for a time when things are more settled, given the current climate. In January, 20% of international travellers looking to visit Dubai were searching and booking 91 or more days in advance of their trip. In April that figure shifted to 49%, highlighting the significant increase in lead times for visits to the UAE.
Hotel Booking/Search Lead Times in Relation to Travel Distance
UAE and Turkey Hotel Bookings Fare Well Compared to Other Key Destinations
Finally, looking more specifically at the UAE and Turkey compared to other key markets, global bookings have not dropped at the same rate. Countries such as China, the United Kingdom, and the United States, have experienced steeper declines in bookings, and have plateaued at considerably lower booking levels than they were experiencing at same time last year.
Year-Over-Year Change in Global Hotel Search/Booking Events to Key Destinations – Indexed to Jan 5, 2020
We continue to see domestic travel regaining strength, with search and booking lead times increasing. Although domestic travel sees an increase in popularity as lockdown measures and travel restrictions begin to be lifted, many regional airlines continue to extend the suspension of regional flights and large, global events, continue to be shifted to a later date or cancelled. We will continue to share more insights as we monitor the situation. These forward looking insights will hopefully help travel marketers shape their strategies when the industry starts to recover from this outbreak.
For the rest of the COVID-19 insights series click here.
OAG: Week Sixteen More Capacity Cuts but Also Growth in More Markets
Tracking the impact of COVID-19 suddenly got a lot harder this week, if it wasn’t difficult enough already. Saturday evening saw Delta Air Lines alone file some 89,000 schedule changes in just one update sent to OAG as airlines in some parts of the world continue to dramatically cut capacity whilst in other parts others cautiously add back capacity.
Keeping up with the rate of changes, adjustments to relaunch dates, regulatory lockdowns and of course the increasingly sad loss of airlines and skilled staff across a global industry.
At the moment those dramatic cuts are outstripping those small shoots of optimism, some 270 airlines added capacity back to the tune of approximately 3.9 million seats; unfortunately, 303 airlines reduced capacity by some 5.6 million including over 1 million fewer seats from Southwest Airlines.
Global capacity has now fallen to 26.6 million seats a week compared to some 109 million in the same week last year. Whilst the rate of weekly capacity continues to decline it does at last feel as though we are getting closer and closer to the bottom. After all, how much further can capacity fall.
The month of May has been seen by many airlines as a target date for capacity being added in some shape and form as the chart below shows current planned capacity for the weeks of the 11th – 25th May. Current scheduled capacity shows potentially nineteen million seats being added back in three weeks; a near 70% increase in three weeks. That is not going to happen! It does however show how difficult it is for the airlines working their way through and out of COVID-19, adjust capacity on a near weekly basis and then adjust again, and again.
Chart 1 – Scheduled Airline Capacity by Week Compared to Schedules Filed on 20th January 2020 and Previous Year
North East Asia remains the largest regional market in the world with a 6% increase in capacity week on week. China’s national holiday and an easing of travel restrictions in the country is behind a near 900,000 increase in domestic capacity as carriers seek to stimulate demand with some very cheap air fares and rebuild confidence in the market.
The gradual easing of travel restrictions in Western Europe is supported by a near 4% increase in capacity week on week although in total the market remains at just above 10% of the capacity available in January this year. Key country markets such as Italy, Germany and the United Kingdom all have some degree of capacity growth week on week with just over half (26,000 seats) of Italy’s increase being coming from domestic capacity.
Table 1 – Scheduled Airline Capacity by Region, 20th Jan – 10th May 2020 by Region
Domestic capacity continues to account for over 82% of all seats scheduled for operation this week. Southwest Airlines dropping over one million seats in the last week moves the airline into second position in terms of global rankings; China Eastern now occupying first place.
Chart 2 – Domestic & International Capacity Splits, All Markets
In total some 1.8 million domestic seats were removed from the US market this week and some 14,300 flights with all of the “Big Three” carriers reducing capacity further. In the last few weeks we have been reporting exceptionally high levels of flights cancellations in the US domestic market as airlines grappled with the complex operations and consumer demand whilst in some cases observing the principles of the CARES Act.
The chart below shows the operated and cancelled flight count for US Domestic services in April 2020; in total over 125,000 flights were cancelled representing around 39% of all those scheduled. In the last week of April some 23,600 flights were cancelled; the collectively removal of those 14,300 flights each week may result in the cancellation rate falling in the coming weeks but certainly not returning to the normal low levels the industry has come to expect.
Chart 3 – US Scheduled Domestic Capacity and Cancellations, 1st April – 30th April 2020
Taking a slightly different angle on the data, we have looked at scheduled services by aircraft type to track exactly what is happening in the global market, especially in the context of wide-bodied operations. As the table below shows and as probably most of us expected the A380 is currently on “gardening leave” with no scheduled flights planned this week. Wide-bodied aircraft are operating fewer than one in four of the services scheduled in January. The combination of “stronger” domestic supply and shorter sector lengths naturally plays to the single-aisle models such as the B737 and A320’s and indeed if there is any “good news” for Boeing in another bad week the B737 appears to have been the most resilient aircraft in terms of continued operations; much of which was Southwest related.
Table 2 – Scheduled Services by Aircraft Type, 20th January – 10th May 2020
The first week of May could have been perhaps too early a date to begin seeing capacity coming back but there are some positive signs. Country markets such as Vietnam, Spain, Oman, France and Colombia all report increases in weekly capacity offering some hope that capacity is growing in markets around the globe rather than just North East Asia.
However, this week’s data also highlights both how difficult and slow the capacity growth could be in the coming weeks. Many major airlines are now at the point of reshaping operations, adjusting networks and fleets as we prepare for the post COVID-19 industry and it could be a very long journey back to 109 million seats a week in that new world.