Coronavirus statistics snapshot - global flight frequencies are down 58% this week and in some individual major markets now exceed 90%

7 April, 2020

The reduction in global flights continues into April, but this month could mark the bottom of the curve as the COVID-19 pandemic spreads further globally, but with talk that a number of the countries hit during the initial spread of the virus are looking to follow China and start easing travel restrictions. While this may not mark a renaissance, it could open the door to the opportunity.

The latest The Blue Swan Daily analysis of OAG flight schedules for this week shows that the total number of flights scheduled to operate during the week commencing 06-Apr-2020 is just under 288,000. That is down from the 371,000 planned last week, a -22.5% reduction.

When compared to the flight schedules filed by airlines as at the start of this year, the number of one-way flights removed during the week commencing 06-Apr-2020 is just touching 400,000 departures, a -58.1% reduction. This continues a trend which saw 217,000 departures removed in the week commencing 23-Mar-2020, a -29.6% reduction and 347,000 departures removed in the week commencing 30-Mar-2020, a -50.1% reduction on what we had expected.

CHART - The reduction in the number of weekly flight departures from each of the world's 20 largest aviation markets is significantSource: The Blue Swan Daily and OAG (Data: 06-Apr-2020)

The chart looks a little different to last week due to the scale of cuts across the United States of America (USA), the world's largest aviation market. As COVID-19 continues to spread around the country, airlines - having already made significant international network cuts - are now culling their domestic operations due to falling passenger demand.

At the start of the week commencing 30-Mar-2020, network plans within and from USA showed the removal of just over 45,000 flights from the schedules planned at the start of the year, a -24.6% reduction. For the week commencing 06-Apr-2020 that has doubled to over 90,000 flights, down -48.5% on the level planned.

The USA domestic network cuts can be seen more clearly in this following chart, which looks at the country's domestic capacity. What's more, based on current changes to schedules, it will fall still further for the week commencing 13-Apr-2020.

CHART - The number of weekly domestic US seats has fallen from a peak of over 20 million in the week commencing 16-Mar-2020 to just 10.8 million this weekSource: The Blue Swan Daily and OAG (Data: 06-Apr-2020)

This week, we also start to see frequency cuts among the world's largest aviation markets fall below the -90% figure. A few nations were close to this mark last week, but the United Kingdom (-90.5%), Spain (-92.6%), Germany (-92.0%), Brazil (-92.0%) and Thailand (-91.3%) have now all fallen below that line.

Based on this week's schedule alone, Russia, Mexico, Saudi Arabia and Malaysia, have all jumped into the world's top ten country markets by flight departures, while Japan and Indonesia have moved up the rankings. India and Canada have slipped down the ranking and the United Kingdom, Germany, Spain and Brazil have fallen out of the top ten. Brazil and Spain are not even in the top 25 country markets this week, according to the latest data from schedules provider OAG.

CHART - The new aviation world order sees Russia, Mexico, Saudi Arabia and Malaysia enter the top ten markets by frequencySource: The Blue Swan Daily and OAG (Data: w/c 06-Apr-2020)

The divide between the schedules we expected airlines to fly at the start of the year and what they have actually flown is widening, This week increases the distance between those two lines, albeit the slope is less steep than seen in the previous two weeks. That gap is expected to get a little wider as we progress through April. The question then will be when we will start to see it rising again?

CHART - There is a vast difference between the schedules planned by the world's airlines at the start of this year and those that have actually been flownSource: The Blue Swan Daily and OAG (Data: w/c 06-Apr-2020)