The number of flights operating over the European Easter weekend between 7th – 10th April 2023 will be at 90% of 2019 levels on routes to and from Europe. Aviation intelligence from IBA Insight also reveals that some low-cost carriers will exceed pre-Covid levels.
*Number of flights to and from Europe by select airlines. Easter 2019: 19-22nd April. Easter 2023: 7-10th April
Low-cost carriers Ryanair, Wizz Air and Vueling have increased the number of flights operating over the Easter weekend by 24%, 29% and 4% respectively compared to 2019 levels.
Network carriers will remain below pre-pandemic flight volumes over Easter with British Airways at -11%, Air France at -15% and Lufthansa at -8% of 2019 levels.
Planned strikes at London Heathrow over the Easter weekend and the risk of further air traffic control strikes in France indicate some flights may be impacted. British Airways has announced that it is cancelling 32 short-haul flights a day over the weekend.
Flights to the Asia-Pacific region are set to still be 36% below 2019 levels, when there were 3,546 flights over Easter compared to the 2,282 planned for this year.
The Ukraine conflict is causing some of the reduced flights through airspace closures and Russian sanctions.
China's strict pandemic travel restrictions are coming to an end of 4th April and traffic is forecast to increase.
Flights to the Middle East have fully recovered and are set to be slightly ahead of 2023 levels.
Flights to North America in 2023 are only 5% below 2019 levels.
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Over a year has now passed since the start of the Russo-Ukrainian war, the introduction of sanctions, and the reciprocal closure of western, Russian, and Belorussian airspace to select foreign registered aircraft. This naturally posed a huge challenge to European, Asian, and Russian operators as they worked hard to recover from the Coronavirus pandemic. Finnair elected to use the polar route to reconnect services to Japan, and the southern route to Southeast Asia and China. Flight data from IBA Insight reveals that Finnair operates the same number of flights into Singapore and Tokyo today as they did in 2019, but with increased flight durations on each route of 13% and 31% respectively. The airline’s utilisation of the A350 (with its 300 min ETOPS certification) has helped the carrier adapt flexibly. By contrast, operators such as Scandinavian Airlines have elected to remove Japan from their network altogether and have resumed only 7% of Chinese flights to-date. How have Russian operators been affected by sanctions and airspace closures? Russian operators were, in fact, leading the way in post-pandemic recovery with domestic ASKs already 10% above the 2019 peak by August 2020 and 32% by August 2021. Most notably, domestic ASKs sat at 36% above peak 2019 levels in August 2022, following 4 months of sanctions! Whilst we anticipated domestic growth as a result of a big fall in international capacity, I would have expected the sanctions to have dented passenger traffic to a greater extent. Whilst IBA Insight reveals that flights have reduced by around 11% since 2021, we have also observed flexibility in the utilisation of the Russian fleet. Usage of the A319, 737-700 and 737 classics has reduced in favour of increased deployment of the A321. Furthermore, we have witnessed a 20% increase in the usage of widebody aircraft on domestic routes, placing more reliance on the A330 and 777-300ER, the latter of which has seen a 111% increase in flights. Russian operators halted passenger A350 operations in 2021, and these aircraft were largely grounded at the onset of sanctions. Which international destinations are Russian operators flying to? International Capacity was down by 79% in 2020, recovering to 44% below 2019 levels in 2021. This reduced again to 67% below 2019 levels following sanctions. The number of countries visited by Russian operators had dropped from around 80 to less than 30 by the summer of 2022. The most popular summer destinations for Russian travellers proved to be Turkey (37% of capacity), followed by Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, UAE and Kyrgyzstan (each with around 10% capacity). Winter destinations tell a different story. As of February 2023, Thailand tops the list with 19% of the capacity, followed by UAE with 15% and Turkey coming in third with just 10% (just 29% of summer 2022 capacity). Worthy mentions also include Egypt, Cuba, Sri Lanka, the Maldives, and India. These collectively account for 15% of winter capacity but <5% of summer 2022 capacity. Egypt is proving a noteworthy winner, with a 1300% increase in traffic to the country from Russia. This has been buoyed by limited options, and the 2021 lifting of the ban on direct flights to Egyptian resort cities following the crash of Metrojet flight 9268. Locations such as the UAE, Turkey, The Maldives and Sri Lanka are up 50-75% on 2019, whilst Russia’s largest winter sun location, Thailand, still has some ground to catch up. Myself and the team will continue to monitor and report on the evolving situation for Russian carriers and the impact on lessors and the wider aviation finance community. Don’t miss out on the latest aviation intelligence The IBA team share regular insights on all aspects of commercial aviation, from airline capacity and travel trends to aircraft values and ESG strategy. Sign up today to get the latest intelligence from the IBA Weekly newsletter delivered straight to your inbox. Sign up to our IBA Weekly