UTC 16:02

US flights on rise but still way down on average

As aviation continues to recover from the biggest upset in the industry's history, the United States remains a huge focus of attention. This vast market has been profoundly impacted by the Covid pandemic, but has the country begun to make a tangible recovery?

Well, its clear when we examine Radarbox data that there is still a long way to go before US aviation fully recovers. Firstly, domestic flights remain under 60% of usual capacity, and even dipped slightly over the last few weeks:

And international flights remain below 50% of usual capacity, although given the dip in seasonal traffic that would usually be expected, this does represent a small increase over August's figures:

When we look at the overall US figures, its clear that the relatively small number of flights to Europe that are currently occurring is having a big impact:

While the US has also failed to re-establish its aviation relationship with China, despite the latter beginning to come out of the Covid crisis. Flights from the US to China are well under 50% of their usual level:

And some US airports have been taking a battering during the pandemic. For example, JFK International Airport is still operating at around 30% of its usual capacity:

This is a particularly pronounced slump in flights, but the picture is similar at other major airports. However, Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport in Atlanta has staged something of a recovery, even though its capacity is still around 65% of what would usually be expected:

Los Angeles International Airport has also been struggling, although it has been inching up percentage wise in recent weeks, to be touching 50% of usual capacity currently:

While San Francisco International Airport is at a similar level:

Clearly the situation remains extremely grave for aviation in the US. Yet one small chick of light at the end of the tunnel is the performance of the country's three major carriers. Delta Air Lines has staged a major recovery, and its capacity even briefly exceeded figures for 2019 during September:

The situation is the same at American Airlines, which has also been performing favorably:

And although United Airlines is sligtly down in capacity terms, it has also staged a major recovery in recent weeks:

What this suggests is that it is some of the smaller airlines that are really bearing the brunt of the Covid crisis. It also indicates that aviation has the potential to get back to normal in the foreseeable future, if the conditions in which this is possible are created.

However, when we survey the current picture in US aviation, the gravity of the crisis is made clear. The stories of job losses, cuts, and financial armageddon aren't remotely surprising. The tumbling in flight traffic, and the amount of time that it is taking to recover, is disastrous for everyone involved in the industry. 

And with no clear path out of this pandemic and crisis yet apparent, the onus will surely fall on the US government to help prop up what is becoming an inevitably failing industry.

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