Research Insights Global air trends

Global air trends

August 2020
Phocuswright Research

In their efforts to stay afloat, airlines have taken drastic measures, including furloughs, buyouts and layoffs. And despite numerous countries opening up their borders, it is unclear when travelers will get over their apprehension and feel comfortable taking to the skies again. The following are excerpts from Phocuswright's latest travel research report with 3Victors Global Air Trends: July 2020 (available for free). 

Seat capacity and unique search trends in the Americas, Europe and APAC

Airline capacity, measured in seats, fell in the first six months of 2020 compared to the same period in 2019, ranging from a 31% YoY decline in Mexico to a 47% drop in Canada.


Looking ahead to the remainder of 2020, seat capacity for August through December in all countries is significantly higher – close to or more than double that in July. While this is a positive sign, airlines are monitoring demand and making capacity adjustments closer in – a trend we expect will continue for some time.


Searches made by consumers may be a good proxy for intent to travel. In the U.S., average monthly searches fell by nearly a fifth to 299 million in the first half of 2020 from 369 million in the corresponding period in 2019. Searches in Mexico dropped nearly 40% in that timeframe.

Overall seat capacity in Europe was down 47% YoY in July, but it still reflected a significant jump in available seats over the previous three months. Coming in the wake of measured steps towards re-opening economies, this also portends some return of leisure travel during the summer holiday season. As anticipated demand increases, capacity in August and beyond is also correspondingly higher in every country.

But in a sign of travelers’ wariness around planning too far in advance, a majority of searches were for departures within a few weeks. Search volumes in July were close to double or more those for August and far exceeded those for the rest of 2020.

Australia shut its borders to most inbound and outbound travelers in March. Aviation came to a standstill, as capacity dropped by close to 90% in the second quarter. Though most airports have restricted the number of daily arrivals, scheduled capacity shows a steady increase from July through December.

Travelers across the globe are exhibiting similar behavior when it comes to planning trips. Uncertainty, fed by travel restrictions, repeat outbreaks and warnings of a second wave later in the year, may be among the reasons travelers are searching for trips in the next 4-8 weeks, rather than planning their end-of-year holidays.

Accordingly, China’s search volume for July was almost double that for August, while India had three times as many searches for July compared to August.


Destination search trends in the Americas, Europe, APAC and Middle East

There are distinct differences between consumers’ searches across countries. U.S. travelers tend to search for domestic destinations close to their departure month, as evidenced by the 65% domestic share of searches in July. That falls to 53% in August and further to 31% by December. On the other hand, Canadians are far more eager to fly across borders.


Spain is the most desirable destination for travelers, as evidenced by the search volume from the U.K., France, Germany and Italy. Italy ranks at the top of the list for searches from Spain, but is also among the top three for France, Germany and the U.K.

Pakistan and the Philippines were the most searched countries from the UAE – no surprise given the high proportion of migrant workers in the UAE.


This report presents analysis of airline seat capacity and search traffic trends for key markets globally.

  • The Americas: Brazil, Canada, Mexico and the U.S.
  • Europe: France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the U.K.
  • Asia Pacific and Middle East: Australia, China, India, Japan and the UAE

This report covers historical airline seat capacity and search traffic from January 2019 to June 2020. It also covers forward projections for both seat capacity and search traffic from July 2020 to December 2020.

Phocuswright partnered with 3Victors, a travel big data company, to analyze monthly search requests made on pricing engines utilized by agent desktops, mobile apps, metasearch and websites. Search data may not include searches made on airline websites or low-cost carriers (LCCs) that do not distribute through their pricing engine channels.

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