Flight Centre report predicts fuller flights and less flexibility going forward

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Flight Centre Travel Group’s latest global trends report has revealed that travellers should brace for fuller flights and less flexibility as the industry bounces back.

The report said that global aircraft capacity will remain 15 per cent below 2019 levels until at least next year. The lack of seats comes as airlines around the world tackle rising fuel costs, staffing issues and supply-chain problems.

94.6 million seats were removed from airline schedules globally since last quarter and global seat capacity was approximately 400 million, down from 2019’s peak of 500 million.

The global air passenger load factor – which assesses efficiency in how airlines fill seats and generate fare revenue – in July averaged 85 per cent for international and 82 per cent for domestic while the 2019 load factor averaged 82 per cent.

The report found that international travellers are booking flights earlier, with corporate bookings happening 40 days before a trip, up 33 per cent from pre-COVID levels.

The North American aviation market is found to be leading the way with 96 per cent of its pre-COVID capacity expected to be reached by the end of the year. Australia and New Zealand are expected to hit 84 per cent in the same period.

Flight Centre Consulting’s GM, Felicity Burke, said the recovery will kick off when China reopens to the world.

“The major stumbling block that does remain is the continued closure of borders in China. When this changes, we expect capacity to really take off,” Burke said.

Asia’s travel industry remains the most hindered as strict border restrictions continue in China and Japan slowly reopens to the world. Asia is expected to hit 48 per cent of its pre-COVID seat capacity for international air travel by the end of the year.

International seats into Sydney remain at 58 per cent of pre-COVID levels as the Council of Australian Tour Operators (CATO) has called for the government to open up Australia’s air capacity to facilitate tourism recovery.

CATO managing director Brett Jardine, chair Dennis Bunnik and vice-chair Lisa Pagotto raised the open skies agreement during discussions with the Minister that focused on fast-tracking the recovery of the travel and tourism industry. The agreement would allow any airline unlimited capacity to fly into Australia.

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