Airlines plan to exceed pre-pandemic levels in summer and schedule 220 million seats




The epidemiological improvement experienced in recent weeks in Spain has triggered optimism in the tourism sector, which although it is still suffering from the ravages of the
expects to approach pre-crisis levels at Easter and, above all, summer. And the airlines do not escape this trend. As sources from Aena explained this Friday, the airlines have requested capacity from the airport manager to put 220 million seats in the air during the summer campaign (which runs from the end of March to the end of October). A figure that represents 3.6% more than the activity operated in the same period of 2019.

In other words, airlines expect to recover pre-crisis levels in the summer. At least, at the level of seats offered.

Capacity refers to the seats that airlines will put in the air on their planes, not the passengers. The total number of travelers will depend on the level of occupancy that occurs in these places. In 2021, the average occupancy rate on aircraft has been 70%, as explained by ALA. Before the health crisis this percentage was 85%.

Aena's plans
they go through incentivizing the airlines
for this occupancy rate to be higher in the coming weeks. "Those companies that have a higher occupancy factor than in 2019 will be incentivized," explained sources from the airport manager. Aena, which has given incentives valued at 82 million euros from the summer of 2020, it will differentiate the destinations of the flights when granting this aid to boost those furthest behind.

Thus, on short flights and to Latin America, two segments that have recovered strongly, Aena will offer a 50% reduction in the rate per passenger paid by the airline when occupancy exceeds 80%. The discount, specifically, will be applied to passengers with whom the 80% occupancy. For the rest of the destinations (especially those that go to North America, the Middle East and Asia) the reduction in the rate per passenger will be 100% and will be applied to those seats with more than 70% occupancy. Both grants will be valid from April 1 to October 31.

The incentive system chosen by
Aena is explained by the heterogeneous recovery of the air sector
. According to data from the public company, 92% of the flights that operated before the pandemic are currently registered in short-haul destinations. And there is also a high level of activity on flights to Latin America, especially due to the recovery of the airport in Adolfo Suarez Madrid-Barajas.

Thus, the seats available in summer to fly to the rest of Europe will grow by 1% compared to 2019; those of domestic flights, 8%; those that connect with Latin America, 10% and connections with Africa, 24%. By contrast, seats to North America will fall by 14%, those to the Middle East by 5% and those to Asia by 14%.

Gone are those months in which the capacity offered at Spanish airports registered a drop of 60% compared to 2019 levels. In the winter of 2020 this decrease rose to 71%, while in 2021 some recovery has already been noted: the drop in programming was 43% in the summer and 21% this past winter.

The situation now is radically different, and since Aena They even assure that some airlines have asked in recent weeks to increase their summer schedule. In principle, airlines must request their summer capacity from Aena before the end of January, but normally there are slight downward changes in subsequent months (from Aena they speak of an average drop in seats of 4%). In this exercise, which from the public company they describe as "atypical", the modifications are taking place, however, on the rise.

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