Airlines start to recover from coronavirus crisis with more growth in China, Hong Kong

Airlines globally added a net 600,000 seats to reach a total of almost 30 million, up about 2 per cent from the previous week.
Airlines globally added a net 600,000 seats to reach a total of almost 30 million, up about 2 per cent from the previous week.PHOTO: AFP

SINGAPORE (BLOOMBERG, AFP) - Airlines added more seats back to their flight schedules this week, led by China and even increases in Hong Kong, suggesting the industry is starting to recover from the devastating impact of the coronavirus pandemic, according to OAG Aviation Worldwide.

Airlines globally added a net 600,000 seats to reach a total of almost 30 million, up about 2 per cent from the previous week, OAG senior analyst John Grant wrote in a report. That's still a long way off the weekly capacity of about 110 million seats this time last year, but it is an encouraging sign nonetheless.

North-east Asia is a bright spot. China added one million seats to schedules this week, including 800,000 on domestic routes, and is now operating twice as many seats as the US. Meanwhile, Hong Kong's Cathay Pacific Airways added 40,000 seats and increased frequency by some 120 flights, Grant said.

"China's domestic capacity stands at 75 per cent of January's level, the United States at 27 per cent and Russia at 49 per cent of pre Covid-19 levels," he said. "For anyone interested the UK level is now some 4 per cent!"

Some markets are still on a downtrend as travel restrictions are kept in place to contain the coronavirus, which has infected more than four million people and killed nearly 290,000.

Seat capacity on South Asian airlines dropped 14 per cent this week and is 72 per cent lower than in January, but it could bounce back as India considers restarting flights following a nationwide lockdown, Grant said.

Separately,  Irish low-cost carrier Ryanair on Tuesday announced it will restore 40 per cent of flights from July 1, after running a skeleton service since mid-March as the coronavirus pandemic grounded planes worldwide.

"Ryanair will operate a daily flight schedule of almost 1,000 flights, restoring 90 per cent of its pre-Covid-19 route network," it said in a statement.

Crew and passengers will wear face masks and have to pass temperature checks, it added.