As queues grow at airports around the world and airlines cut some services due to supply chain problems and staff shortages, the busiest day for flying has been identified.
Airline capacity has now topped 90 million seats a week, three-quarters of pre-pandemic levels.
Schedule analyser OAG says global airline capacity is now at 83 per cent of the same week in 2019 with five regional markets now ahead of their 2019 levels, most noticeably Central and West Africa with over 26 per cent more capacity.
August 12 has been identified as the busiest day of the year.
Travel is recovering quickly and the strain is intensifying on airlines which have shed tens of thousands of staff during the past two years and are now struggling to rehire them, or find new workers.
The pressure on some airports has been highlighted by reports of the squeeze exceeding pre-pandemic levels, including waiting for domestic flights in Australia.
British Airways has been forced to cancel 10 per cent of its flight schedules between March and October because of staff shortages.
EasyJet has elected to stop selling a row of seats on its A319s to bring the operational configuration down to 150, thereby avoiding a requirement for a fourth crew member.
Meanwhile, British leisure carrier TUI has warned that all short-haul and some long-haul flights could take off without catering on board because its supplier had been hit by staff shortages.
The airline told customers to bring their own food and drinks in case of disruption to its onboard services, The Telegraph reports.
Britain has nearly seven times more seats than last year, while Canada, Italy and Germany are all close to three times busier, all of which places pressure on the aviation supply chain.
Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) yesterday said it is set to cancel around 4000 flights this summer, citing staff shortages and delayed deliveries of aircraft. A pilot shortage has contributed to what was reported as a “meltdown” for Alaska Airlines and elsewhere in the US, staff woes, aircraft shortages and weather issues one day last month led to 7579 delays at airports and 602 cancellations, according to tracking site FlightAware.
This week thousands of passengers had to queue outside terminals at Birmingham and Manchester airports, and dozens have missed flights. Passengers described the experience as “manic” and “absolute chaos” on social media, The Guardian reports.Yesterday lines of travellers snaked out of Leeds Bradford Airport’s terminal building as security personnel worked to get people through.
In this country, Air New Zealand is urgently recruiting 200 staff after what it said were unacceptably long wait times for customers who are calling in greater numbers and with more complex inquiries than before the pandemic. One customer told the Herald they were waiting for three hours to speak to staff – one minute before their call was disconnected by the airline which has restored about 40 per cent of its international network.
While flying is recovering quickly in this country, it is nowhere near pre-pandemic levels so airline and airport systems and facilities haven’t yet been put to the test.
Where the growth is coming from
OAG says the surge in seats has been helped by China adding back some 2.2 million seats for the next seven days.
In the next few weeks OAG forecasts up to 95 million seats a week and is confident of holding steady at that level at least through the next few months as the peak (northern) summer season continues.
During the peak week of summer last year, 83 million seats were on offer.
In the busiest week of summer 2019, capacity reached 119 million seats.
Low-cost carriers are operatingmore seats now than in 2019, OAG says, and four of the top 20 airlines are now operating more capacity per week than in 2019.
They are Ryanair, Wizzair, Indigo and Spirit, all low-cost carriers, which supports the fact that airlines in this segment of the market have been faster to recover than their legacy competitors.
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