Airline passenger capacity is projected to grow at 47% in 2022.
Global aviation analytics firm Cirium, has released its second annual Airline Insights Review, which reveals an industry in recovery and poised for a projected 47% growth in capacity (the number of seats flown) in 2022. This steep increase indicates capacity could return to 2015 levels by the end of next year.
Last year, the pandemic and its consequences wiped out 15 years of global passenger capacity growth—based on the total number of seats flown—in a matter of months, reducing 2020 capacity flown to levels last seen in 2005.
Regions with strong domestic markets showed accelerated recovery this year—in particular, in the US and China. In fact, Chinese domestic flights are up 6% compared to pre-pandemic levels in 2019.
Of all the flights tracked January to October 31 worldwide, 78% were domestic flights. International flights experienced a slow recovery with many restrictions in place until Q4 of 2021, and some restrictions still in place, depending on the routes. Indeed, international flights saw a 6% growth in 2021 compared to the same period in 2020.
“The past year has had its challenges as we continued to face fluctuating cases of COVID-19, new variants—most recently Omicron—and varied vaccination programs per country. There is light at the end of the tunnel as we see international travel corridors reopening. However, we will continue to track this momentum as new variants arise and we hope the invaluable analyses in our Airline Insights Report help to navigate what’s to come,” said Jeremy Bowen, CEO of Cirium.
Cirium predicts a year of acceleration in 2022
“Cirium’s experts have analysed 2021 data and formulated forecasts for 2022 and beyond. Near the end of 2022, global capacity will return to 2015 levels, as we see a steep increase in more seats returning to the skies.
“In Cirium’s Airline Insights Report, we have included Seven Things to Look for in 2022 to enable the industry to gain insight into these forecasts and use them to anticipate market developments and make well-informed decisions,” Bowen added.
As more passengers steadily return to the skies, this will mean worldwide domestic traffic (measured in passenger numbers) is predicted to be back to pre-pandemic levels by the end of 2022. International passenger traffic is likely to reach two-thirds of 2019 levels.
Cirium projections show that the global passenger fleet in service will increase to 20,700 by the end of 2022—only a few hundred less than at the end of 2019—pre-pandemic.
The slow recovery of business travel seen so far will change in 2022, with predictions from the industry that there will be a 36% surge in business travel year-over-year.
Conversions of passenger jets to freighters will continue to increase and in 2022, with a potential total of 160 passenger jets converted to freighters—surpassing previous conversion figures.
Aircraft values and lease rates took an unprecedented hit in the past 12 months, however Cirium suggests that they’ve reached the bottom as the values and lease rates for many aircraft types have stabilized and a few are improving. Some aircraft types remain on watch next year, including the Airbus A350 and the Boeing 787.
Cirium anticipates that airlines will increasingly rely on partnerships to carry passengers into partner home markets in 2022. This will mean a shift in airlines flying secondary markets post-pandemic and instead see them taking advantage of their airline partners to fly passengers to secondary cities.
As more flights return to the skies, it’s no surprise that CO2 emissions will increase next year—the CO2 emissions from flights in 2021 were 40% less than pre-pandemic. However, airlines are returning more fuel-efficient fleets to service and sustainability has become front and center in aviation, with many looking at fuel burn and how to reach net zero 2050 targets.
Plataforma Informativa de Aviación Comercial líder en América Latina.