MIAMI – As the lowest season for commercial aviation passenger traffic approaches, airlines are cutting passengers seats for the coming weeks, according to multiple MCOs measures and restrictions applied across the world, in order to curb the COVID-19 RT index.

Roughly 7% of seats are going to be lost on the second week of January, which translated into numbers amounts to seven million seats lost and the figure will get worse in the following weeks.

The actual capacity of the airlines around the world stand at 47% seats offered compared to the same period of 2020 when there were still no major travel disruptions caused by the pandemic.

Source OAG

350 Millions Passenger Seats Expected to Be Wiped out

While the lowest peak of seats offered has not been reached as of yet, OAG experts predict a further plunge of nearly 350 Millions passengers seat in the upcoming weeks. This is at least until March 2021 when vaccination programs across the globe will hopefully give a little breathing room to the countries affected by the pandemic.

This plunge will affect mostly US and EU markets that are set to register a double digits plunge compared to seats offered in the same period in 2020.

In addition, while vaccination programs have already begun in US and in most of the EU, the upcoming third wave of COVID-19 coupled with the second wave will affect many western EU countries, as reflected by the number of passenger seats offered by EU airlines, amounting to a -24,9% drop.

Source OAG

Not Every Global Player Affected

Not everyone is being affected by this steep descent of the seats offered, though. While EU is the worst affected area, on the other side of the globe, Southwest Pacific and Asian airlines have increased the amount of passengers seats compared to last year.

We might have to take into consideration the region was the first to be affected by COVID-19 and other catastrophes that imposed a decrease in travel demand.Still, this increment in passenger numbers offers a glimpse into what the future holds for the EU and US markets.

The best increment registered in passengers seats offered compared to those from previous week is seen in Australia, with a +5.7 % more seats offered, which means roughly 50,000 more seats.

Qantas Airbus A380. Photo: Tomás Del Coro

Extreme Weather and a Third Wave of COVID-19

As mentioned above, many variables affect any possible growth or further descent and have to be taken into consideration. As vaccination programs start, vaccine dosages are still very limited to cover a large portion of the population. Until we reach herd immunity, restrictive travel measures will not ease to allow people to travel freely.

Furthermore, a possible COVID-19 third wave is going to be expected to afflict many more countries, delaying further the recovery date for the airline industry. However, with a boost of the vaccination program and the reduction of critical upturns of COVID-19 symptoms, we might see growth in PSDaO (Passenger seat Demand and Offers) and shortcut the uncertainty period.

Another variables which we have to take into consideration, in light of this week’s Philomena Storm that has afflicted Spain, is the possible extreme weather conditions that are set to hit Europe in the following weeks.

Moreover, EUMET has forecasted possible abnormal snow accumulation across Central/South/Western Europe due to a cold air core coming down from Russia mainland. This will now starts to affect eastern Europe with temperature going down to -25c in large cities such as Vilnius, Riga, Tallinn, Warsaw, and Prague.

Featured image: Photo: Luca Flores/Airways