US domestic seat capacity creeps up again in November


WASHINGTON – U.S. airlines have added domestic seat capacity at an accelerated rate over the last four months, increasing 3% in November 2010, compared to the same month a year ago, reports OAG, the global leader in aviation intelligence. Despite worldwide expansion, U.S. domestic capacity had been declining year-over-year, and hadn’t seen growth until recently when it grew 0.8% in August, and has remained steady since.

Meanwhile, the rate of seat capacity growth for international schedules to and from the U.S. has slowed from 6% for July, to 4% for November, when compared against the same month in the previous year.

“Confidence in domestic U.S. travel appears to be returning. The upward trend in the rate of available seat capacity growth over the last few months is positive for travelers, who are likely to see continuing growth in available seats through the end of this year and into 2011,” said Peter von Moltke, Chief Executive Officer, UBM Aviation.

Although capacity within the U.S. and North America overall is trending upward, Canada’s domestic capacity has declined in recent months and is down 1%, year-to-date. Canada’s international capacity is robust, however, increasing 7% in November, growing at a much faster rate than international capacity for the U.S.

Still showing an impact from the cancellation of Mexicana flights, frequency and seat capacity within Central America dropped 18% and 17%, respectively. Within Mexico, the number of flights is down 20%, and seats are down 18% for November. Mexico’s international capacity is not down as much, just 10% in frequency and 7% in seats, reflecting additions by other international airlines.

“Many carriers see Mexicana’s cancellation of flights as a profitable opportunity to replace the region’s lost service. Although frequency and seat capacity losses in and out of the country are still high, it is expected to begin to shrink, month-by-month. Mexico’s scheduled capacity, at least for international routes, could return to early 2010 levels by the end of the first quarter of 2011,” continued von Moltke.

Expansion by Mexican airlines on routes to the United States is severely limited by the FAA’s Category 2 designation, which Mexican authorities are currently working to return to Category 1. Once this change has been made, many of the limitations would be removed.

Worldwide, seat capacity grew 6% and frequency increased 4%, increasing to a total 301.6 million seats and 2.4 million flights during the month of November. All other regions of the world grew in capacity in November, with the Middle East experiencing the greatest increases. Seat capacity within the Middle East is scheduled to rise by 11% to 6.9 million. The total number of seats to and from the Middle East increased a strong 17%, to a total of 11.6 million.