How The Industry Is Reacting To The Coronavirus Crisis

According to an OAG report dated 30th of March, almost 30% of global airline capacity was wiped out in just one week. The week of 23rd-30th of March saw the airline industry fall into one of its gloomiest periods ever. The number of seats offered by airlines right now is almost 50% of what it was during the mid of January. This comes after massive service reductions by the airlines in the United States and a complete ban on the aviation industry of India in response to the increasing number of COVID-19 cases.

The global aviation industry is up for a tough time ahead. Photo: Getty Images

Shocking numbers

The spread of coronavirus has affected almost every part of the world. However, some regions have been hit much harder than others. Since the 20th of January, when the global capacity was at its peak, South Asia and the Southwest Pacific region have seen more than a 60% drop in airline capacity. This was a result of the complete stop of airline services in India and massive reductions in capacity by airlines like Qantas (-63%) and Air New Zealand (-61%).

How The Industry Is Reacting To The Coronavirus Crisis
The number of seats offered in Top-10 country markets (Ranking based on the week of 30th March). Photo: Simple Flying

The current list of top-10 country markets is very different from the one we are used to seeing. Germany, Spain, and France are not even in the picture. Chinese carriers are currently operating almost half the number of seats they were offering just two months ago.

India saw the biggest drop in the Week on Week (WoW) capacity, by 70%. The United Kingdom also witnessed a WoW capacity drop of 49% after British Airways cut the number of seats offered by 72%.

However, the coming days look even scarier. India will be operating almost no scheduled passenger flights until the 14th of April. Brazil is operating a mere 14% of its original capacity. With Dubai airport closed, UAE has observed a capacity drop of 79%.

LATAM Airlines Getty
Brazilian aviation industry saw the biggest drop in WoW capacity in the World, by 80%. Photo: Getty Images.

A different picture in the US

On the other hand, the American carriers that were initially not showing any signs of slow-down, dropped almost 21% of their weekly capacity in the last week. However, the reductions in capacity are not a correct representation of the current situation.

In the week of 23rd-30th March, the top four airlines in the world (by the number of seats offered) were all US-based carriers. These statistics are shocking at a time when the nation is suffering from almost 205,000 COVID-19 cases, the highest in the world.

How The Industry Is Reacting To The Coronavirus Crisis
In the list of top 10 Airlines by capacity, 4 are from the USA and 3 from China alone. Photo: Simple Flying

Anyhow, the trend is going to change dramatically. easyJet has announced complete termination of its operations until further notice. Similarly, a serious capacity reduction is expected from Chinese carriers due to the new restrictions on international services to Mainland China.

OAG has predicted that the airline industry is going to suffer even more:

The average capacity reduction amongst the ten largest airlines this week was 10,2%, a similar level next week would see a further 1.9 million seats removed; we unfortunately expect a higher level.


OAG reports: “It took the airline industry some eight weeks for global capacity to fall from 106 million to 90 million; it took a further two weeks for that to fall to 49 million.

The rate of the falling number of airline seats isn’t any different from the exponential spread of the coronavirus. For now, It will be very hard to say when we are going to observe signs of improvement.

Let us know what you think of COVID-19’s effect on the airline industry in the comments.