Coronavirus has caused China’s share of the global aviation market to slump from third to 25th, new analysis by travel data provider Official Aviation Guide has revealed.
The nation’s airline capacity, defined as the number of seats available to book, has reduced by 1.7 million seats since 20 January, placing it only slightly ahead of Vietnam.
Just five weeks ago, the index ranked China as boasting the third-largest market in the world.
The OAG’s John Grant said in a blog post: “No event that we remember has had such a [devastating] effect on capacity as coronavirus. Ultimately the market will recover, we know that, but in the short term the damage to some airlines and the long-term impact on their growth may linger beyond the virus.”
The latest data compiled from the week commencing 17 February shows a further reduction in international capacity from China of 270,000 seats a week.
The domestic Chinese market will see an even more dramatic reduction, with 10.4 million fewer seats operated than the week commencing 20 January.
Meanwhile, Japan, Thailand and Chinese Taipei were listed as the biggest losers of capacity. Japan now has 47,700 fewer seats scheduled, which is more than a third fewer than the week before.
Grant warned that these figures, while dramatic, far from represent the full scale of damage to the aviation industry.
“The ultimate revenue damage to the airlines affected is clearly significant, especially at a time of year when revenue generation is for many at one of its lowest points,” he said.
“Capacity also fails to recognise the impact on load-factors, and anecdotal evidence [suggests] that those flights that are operating have much-reduced load factors compared to five weeks earlier; it’s not very often when travelling that you are asked what row you would like rather than a window or aisle!
“China Eastern and China Southern are the most heavily impacted carriers from an international perspective, both airlines having reduced capacity by over 200,000 seats a week as a result of coronavirus.
“Placing that in context, China Southern now operates some 800 more international seats a week than Air Astana and China Eastern are just ahead of Tunis Air in a global ranking in 113th place.”