US Airline Recovery: 76% Of Pre-COVID Capacity Planned For May

US aviation’s recovery from coronavirus is continuing strongly, with planned domestic capacity this May at 76% of what it was in May 2019. This makes it one of the world’s best-performing countries, even as China becomes the largest domestic market.

American B787
This May, American Airlines has 80% of the domestic capacity it had in May 2019. It is the best-performing of the ‘Big Three’, with Delta Air Lines on 78% and United Airlines 59%. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying.

While international travel remains weak across most countries, particular countries and areas are doing well domestically. Indeed, some are now close to or even plan to exceed the levels seen in 2019, showing the importance of domestic travel – and leisure travel generally – in the fightback.

US Airline Recovery: 76% Of Pre-COVID Capacity Planned For May
The United States’ domestic recovery is continuing apace. Source: OAG Schedules Analyzer

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China and India lead the way

China and India both have more capacity planned in May 2021 than in 2019, with China up by 26%, analyzing OAG data reveals. This has pushed the country into the number-one spot worldwide for domestic capacity, overtaking the United States.

India, meanwhile, is also up strongly. Still, it – like Brazil and a host of European countries – have seen a big resurgence of coronavirus cases, with lockdowns becoming more common once again. This may mean that planned capacity is cut back, even on the domestic side.

US Airline Recovery: 76% Of Pre-COVID Capacity Planned For May
China Eastern’s domestic capacity is +21% over May 2019. It is a strong figure in itself, but less so when compared with others, including China Southern (29%) and Air China (31%). Photo: Vince Pace Simple Flying.

The US stands out

The US’ planned capacity is 76% of what it was two years ago, making it one of the best-performing Western countries and certainly the best among the larger contenders. It is well ahead of Europe as a whole, and even more so if Russia is taken out. It is well ahead of its northern neighbor, with Canada set to take a longer time to recover.

Crucial in all of this is a reminder that the data is planned seats. It doesn’t mean they will be sold and, if they are, at what price or volume. But it shows relative confidence and optimism, and it is one of the only ways to look into the future outside of having actual booking data.

Frontier A320neo
Frontier has 3% more domestic seats this May than in May 2019. It is the best of the US’ top-10 airlines. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

US progress

Six US states have higher planned capacity levels (or the same) this coming May. They’ll come as little surprise, with a big focus on leisure and especially the outdoors:

  • Wyoming: 128%
  • Montana: 119%
  • Florida: 108%
  • Utah: 107%
  • South Dakota: 102%
  • Idaho: 100%

Between them, they’ll have nearly one-and-a-half million extra seats in this one month. Other outdoor states, such as Arizona and Colorado, have over 90% of the planned capacity, well ahead of the average, with South Carolina, Hawaii, and Tennessee trailing close behind.

On an airport basis, Charleston, which could be Breeze’s first or at least early bases or airports, has 90%, while Nashville is doing even better, building on its solid growth in the past decade.

Of course, most of the above-mentioned states will do even better as summer progresses. Indeed, Montana’s summer 2021 capacity is up by a whopping 35% over summer 2019, benefiting from the renewed focus on outdoor fun and space.

Allegiant A320
Allegiant has the same domestic capacity planned as it did in May 2019. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying.

Montana is up hugely

This summer, Montana will be connected non-stop to 37 US airports, up from 24 two summers ago. Multiple airports have seen double-digit growth, including Kalispell (+37%). But it’s really all about Bozeman, up as it is by 74% with more than 800,000 seats added, OAG data shows.

This is from its route map growing from 17 to 29 and gaining an additional two airlines: Southwest and Sun Country. And if airlines on the same route are counted, it has nearly doubled – from 22 to 43. The competitive scene there has never been so strong.

Do you think such capacity rises will be sustainable longer-term? Comment below!