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North African seat capacity still recovering from impact of Arab Spring

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LUTON, UK – The major air travel markets across North Africa are continuing to increase frequencies and capacity, but are yet to recover to pre-Arab Spring highs, according to the latest statistics fr

LUTON, UK – The major air travel markets across North Africa are continuing to increase frequencies and capacity, but are yet to recover to pre-Arab Spring highs, according to the latest statistics from OAG, the market leader in aviation data and analysis.

While the OAG FACTS (Frequency and Capacity Trend Statistics) report for March shows that there will be 5.3 million seats available to and from North Africa in March 2013, an 8% year-on-year increase, and just under 1.2 million seats within the region, growth of 6% over March 2012, calendar year comparisons are not nearly as positive. In fact, total capacity to/from and within North Africa was 5% lower in the full-year 2012 compared to 2010.

John Grant, executive vice president, OAG says: “Although the increase in capacity for March 2013 against the same month for 2012 makes for positive reading, it does mask the fact that the region still has some way to go to return to the levels experienced before the start of the Arab Spring. However, the year-on-year increase in seats and flight operations does suggest that the region’s air travel market is, at least, moving in the right direction.”
One of the strongest performers in North Africa over the last 12 months has been Libya, which is expected to see frequencies and capacity rise in March 2013, compared to the same month in 2012. International flight operations are expected to grow by 76%, while international capacity will increase by 65%, or 177,000 seats, year-on-year.

Libya’s domestic air travel market also compares favourably in March 2013 versus March 2012. Domestic flight operations will post a 75% rise, while domestic capacity will increase by 34%.
Elsewhere in the region, Algeria will also see solid growth in March 2013, with international flights increasing by 15% and seats by 16%, while Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia will add 154,000, 122,000 and 85,000 international seats respectively.

Grant says: “Despite the ongoing unrest in North Africa, demand for travel to and from the region is now showing significant growth as the confidence of foreign carriers is slowly restored.
“Other factors, however, must also be considered. In Morocco, for instance, the Open Skies agreement that was signed with the EU in 2005 continues to have a positive effect on frequencies and capacity to and from the country. Etihad, Turkish Airlines and Air Arabia have all established a presence, and the long-term potential offered by the Moroccan air travel market is further highlighted by Ryanair’s recent decision to establish two new bases in the country from April 2013.

“With Tunisia now continuing its Open Skies talks with the EU, a successful conclusion could have an equally positive effect and the country could reap similar capacity increases that are made possible by a more liberalised market.”
Growth in the East

Eastern Africa is the only other African region that will see an increase in both to/from and within capacity in March 2013 versus March 2012. While capacity to and from the region will increase by 2%, seats within Eastern Africa will rise by 9%.
However, the capacity increases within North and Eastern Africa are offset by respective declines of 6% and 3% in seats within Southern and Central/Western Africa, meaning that overall seat capacity within Africa as a whole remains flat in March 2013 against the same month in 2012.

Meanwhile, the overall increase in seat capacity to and from Africa for March 2013 versus March 2012 stands at 5%, compared with increases of 8% for Central and South America, 7% for the Middle East, 3% for North America, 3% for Asia/Pacific and 2% for Europe.