ANALYSIS: Come September: capacity insights for the month across Europe, the Middle East and Africa

1 September, 2017

In the first of a regular new series, The Blue Swan Daily offers a capacity snapshot in time and looks at the month ahead to highlight some of the key network trends across Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

In the case of Sep-2017 it is the ongoing restructuring of flying within the Lufthansa Group and the growth of the low-cost carrier sector in Europe; the continued slowing of capacity growth through the year in the Middle East and mixed messages from regions across Africa that dominate the capacity story.


Overall network capacity from Europe is up 6.9% in Sep-2017 versus the same month last year with seven of ten largest and 19 of the top 25 airlines by departure capacity showing seat gains versus Sep-2016. The growth rate is down slightly on Aug-2017, but above the 2017 average that now stands at 6.7%.

CHART - Overall network capacity from Europe is up 6.9% in Sep-2017 versus the same month last yearSource: The Blue Swan Daily and OAG

Legacy operators Air France, British Airways and SAS Scandinavian Airlines are the three airlines in the 'Top 10' that have a small capacity decline in Sep-2017 versus last year (all less than 1%), but interestingly it is other legacy airlines that dominate the growth rates among Europe's leading airlines, namely Aeroflot Russian Airlines with a 16.1% rise and KLM Royal Dutch Airlines with a 12.4% capacity growth. Ryanair, Europe's largest airline also has a double-digit capacity rise out of Europe (+10.1%), while easyJet also records a 8.1% rise versus Sep-2016.

Among the wider 'Top 25' the big winners and losers are in the German market where the growth of flying by the Lufthansa Group's low-fare offering Eurowings - both organically and via Germanwings capacity shift -sees it boost capacity 156.9% in Sep-2017 versus Sep-2016, while the much troubled airberlin sees the largest capacity reduction with a 42.6% decline between the two months.

TABLE - Europe's largest airlines are painting a positive picture, at least from a capacity perspective during September 2017Source: The Blue Swan Daily and OAG

Significant capacity gains are also taken place at Wizz Air (+20.6%) and which will soon push it up into the top ten ranking; TAP Portugal (+19.0%), the fastest growing European flag carrier in the 'Top 25' and (+45.7%), which rises into the 'Top 25' since last year. Another 'new entrant' is Norwegian Air International (+57.3%), but some of that growth has been achieved by capacity switching from Norwegian Air (-11.7%).

Middle East

Overall network capacity from the Middle East is up 3.1% in Sep-2017 versus the same month last year, its slowest monthly rate of growth in 2017 and down notably on the year average that now stands at 7.0% and the significant double-digit highs recorded in Jan-2017 and Apr-2017. This marks the continuation of a downward growth rate trend since Apr-2017 after a minor uplift in Aug-2017.

CHART - Network capacity growth from the Middle East has fallen to its lowest rate in Sep-2017 with just a 3.1% rise versus the same month last yearSource: The Blue Swan Daily and OAG

Only one of the 'Top Five' airlines in the region shows growth in Sep-2017 versus Sep-2016, Saudi Arabian Airlines and a growth that could see it once gain boost its inventory above Emirates Airline and become the largest operator in the region. The carrier is offering a capacity up 15.3% up on the same month last year and just 7,250 seats a day less than the United Arab Emirates (UAE) carrier.

The 'Middle East Big 3' (MEBA) hub airlines are all offering less capacity in Sep-2017 versus the same month last year: Qatar Airways (-16.6%) due to its operational restrictions, Etihad Airways (-5.3%) and Emirates Airline (-1.2%). Low Cost Carrier flydubai completes the losing streak in terms of capacity among the 'Top 5' airlines in the Middle East (-4.5%). Together these five airlines account for 49.0% of the capacity within and from the Middle East, a figure that rises to 62.9% when you expand to cover the 'Top 10'.

CHART - Saudi Arabian Airlines is the current main driver of capacity growth in the Middle East with the MEB3 all delivering year-on-year capacity cuts in Sep-2017Source: The Blue Swan Daily and OAG

Expanding the criteria to look at all airlines offering more than 100,000 departure seats from the Middle East in Sep-2017 and Iraqi Airways (+80.0%), Ata Airlines in Iran (+51.2%) and Kuwait Airways (+48.8%) are the fastest growing operators, while Faraz Qeshm Airline has emerged as a significant player in the Iranian market since this time last year.


Overall network capacity from Africa is up 6.7% in Sep-2017 versus the same month last year, the sixth consecutive month to see growth exceeding 6.0%, but down 0.1 percentage points on Aug-2017. The year average now stands at a healthy 5.9% having been weighed down by the slow growth in Q1, especially in Feb-2017 (+1.6%).

CHART - Network capacity growth from Africa is showing stability through Q2 and Q3 with six consecutive months of >6% risesSource: The Blue Swan Daily and OAG

This apparent capacity growth stability does not spread throughout the giant continent though with notable variations across Africa. Northern and Eastern Africa lead the charge in Sep-2017 with +10.0% and 10.3% capacity gains versus Sep-2016 with a shallower, but healthy +4.4% growth from Central and Western Africa (encouraging given the recent economic crisis that has hit its largest market - Nigeria) and its first month of capacity year-on-year growth in 2017. The Southern Africa market brings up the rear with a 1.1% capacity rise in Sep-2017, its second lowest monthly year-on-year rate of growth in 2017.

Among the 'Top 10' airlines in Africa it is the flag carriers and major hub operators on the Continent that are seeing the strongest capacity growth: namely Air Algerie in Northern Africa (+11.4%) and Ethiopian Airlines in Eastern Africa (+11.3%).

CHART - The latest month brings positive news from Central and West Africa, worries from Southern Africa and maintains the positive performance in Northern and Eastern AfricaSource: The Blue Swan Daily and OAG

Expanding the criteria to look at all airlines offering more than 100,000 departure seats within and from Africa in Sep-2017 then RwandAir, Air Arabia Maroc and Air Namibia stand out with 59.1%, 47.4% and 45.9% rises in capacity versus Sep-2016, respectively. Other notable capacity rises are being delivered by Nile Air (+14.9%), Safair (+14.1%), TunisAir (+14.0%), Precisionair (+12.6%) and from out of region carriers Saudi Arabian Airlines (+23.1%), KLM (+15.9%) and Lufthansa (+11.1%).