China’s international capacity drops by two-thirds

As COVID-19 coronavirus spreads globally, the number of international departure seats from China is set to drop by more than 5.5 million in March 2020 as airlines across the world continue suspending service.

International capacity from China is set to drop by more than two-thirds in March compared with the same month a year ago, research by ASM and Routes has found.

The massive reduction comes as airlines around the world, along with those in China, respond to the global spread of COVID-19 coronavirus following a surge in the number of serious cases.

Analysis of OAG Schedules Analyser data shows the total number of international departure seats from China will total 2.76 million in March, down from 8.32 million in March 2019. The figures represent a capacity decline of 66.8%.

A growing number of international carriers have already suspended flights to China, including American Airlines, British Airways, Delta Air Lines, Lufthansa, Qatar Airways and United Airlines.

OAG’s data shows that capacity to Thailand—China’s largest outbound market—will reduce by 68.4% this March to 365,591 available seats. It is a similar story for Japan and South Korea, China’s second- and third-largest international markets, with expected reductions of 54.7% and 59.8% respectively.

Out of the top 20 biggest overseas markets, the largest drop in capacity is on flights to the US. A year ago, in March 2019, there were 413,002 available departure seats on nonstop services from China to cities like New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco. In March 2020, the total number to the US is scheduled to be just 45,506, a decrease of 89%.

The research shows that the only destination in the top 20 to show a year-on-year rise in capacity is Macau, the autonomous region on the south coast of China.

“The huge drop in the number of flights to and from China shows how airlines around the world are playing their part in helping to control the coronavirus outbreak,” ASM’s VP of consulting Aidan Mooney said.

“However, the suspension of flights will have a massive impact on many airlines’ profitability this year. The latest forecast from IATA suggests the virus threatens to erase $29 billion of revenue for global carriers in 2020.”

The OAG data also shows that the number of international departures during March 2020 will be about 13,698, compared with 39,824 flights a year ago.

Looking at China’s domestic market, total monthly capacity is expected to be 21% down on a year ago at 46.78 million seats. The number of flights will also decline from 357,326 in March 2019 to 283,916 in March 2020.

Photo credit: Arne Müseler