Adding Routes and Sustainability – Top Industry Priorities
1,400 New Routes
The aviation industry continues to push the envelope toward a return to normal, adding routes in anticipation of increasing air travel. According to data compiled by OAG Schedules Analyzer, this year alone, over 1,400 new air routes have been added to airline schedules. Several airlines have been experimenting with their networks to determine where volume is likely to occur. Europe has led in the highest number of air routes having added 600 new routes in 2021; 43% of all new routes. Over 50% of these routes are within Europe, many involving unserved routes linking regional airports. International routes comprise the largest share. The United States added 235 routes and included 53 new pairings of domestic airports. In the Asia-Pacific region, 210 new routes were added, stemming from growth in the Chinese domestic market. As for which carriers have added new routes, only 35% of these routes came from legacy carriers of which Corendon and Turkish Airlines had the most new routes at 14 and 10, respectively. The majority of new routes have been added by low-cost carriers such as Ryanair (80 routes) and Wizz (57 routes). A total of 59 new routes were added by other low-cost carriers.
Partnering Seen as Key to Sustainability
To succeed in its sustainability objectives, airlines must start creating meaningful, strategic partnerships that tackle top issues beyond reducing carbon emissions. Electric aircraft and sustainable aviation fuel are two areas, in particular, where alliances matter. In 2017, easyJet partnered with Wright Electric to produce an electric aircraft for short distance flights. easyJet’s investment has advanced the project such that a 2030 completion data is in sight. Going back farther, in 2012, a Delta Airlines’ acquisition of an oil refinery gave it control over its fuel supply. Today, airlines are being encourages to made similar acquisitions in biofuel companies. The airline group IAG made a commitment that 10% of its fuel will be sustainable by year 2030. In addition to gaining greater control and promoting more sustainable air transportation, airlines will be winning favor from consumers who are now increasingly looking to fly with environmentally-conscious airlines. This was demonstrated in GlobalData’s 2021 Consumer Survey which found that 75% of global respondents reported that they are “always,” “often,” or “sometime” influenced by a product/service’s ethical/environmentally-friendly and social responsibility factor.
Rising Global Airfreight Volumes
April was a good month for air cargo based on WorldACD data. Global demand in April 2021 was 53% higher than the prior year. Widebody capacity increased by 51%. In March, the average airfreight rate per kg rose from $3.12 to $3.30; 12% lower than the prior year period when the pandemic’s capacity crunch was evident. April also saw belly hold capacity on widebody passenger aircraft almost triple year over year and almost paralleled the total capacity of widebody freighters. Overall, a comparison of April 2021 to April 2019 in general cargo levels saw a 61% increase this year. There also were increases in live animal cargo by 78%, flowers by 67%, and special cargos (i.e., those deemed vulnerable and/or high-tech) by 30%. The only decrease observed was in pharmaceuticals which declined by 3%. From a regional perspective, the largest gains in 2021 were in the Americas which increased its exports by 8% over 2019 figures, whereas Asia Pacific and Europe had increases of 7% and 1%, respectively. Decreases were recorded in Africa (-5%), as well as the Middle East and South Asia, (each -17%). As for rate increases, Asia Pacific fare best with 117% increase in April 2021 over April 2019. The Americas and Africa saw 30% rates increases. Rates from China to Europe increased by 117% and rates to North America increased by 152%.
European Nations Start Relaxing Travel Restrictions
On May 3, 2021, the European Commission met and proposed a relaxing of travel restrictions into Europe for fully-vaccinated individuals with EU-authorized vaccinations (i.e., Pfizer/BioNTechy, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson). The Commission also developed a system to halt or limit travel to prevent virus variants in the EU. As a result of these latest developments, several European nations have acted. Specifically:
- On May 16th, Italy opened its border to COVID-tested U.S. leisure flights.
- By June 9th, France indicated it will open its area to Americans.
- Other European nations such as Greece and Iceland have begun opening their countries to vaccinated or negative COVID-19 international travelers.
As part of its plan to start relaxing travel restrictions, members of the European Commission also agreed to relax the criteria used to enable nations to gain approval for entry into the EU with the condition that travelers submit to the entry requirements of various European nations. Currently, the EU is asking all member states to require travelers who will be approved to enter the EU to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 polymerase chain reaction test taken no longer than 72 hours before their departure.