A Shaky Summer

Airport Capacity Analyst, Christakis Christodoulou, explores how the current Summer 2022 season compares with Summer 2019’s pre-pandemic schedule and what this says about schedule volatility and aviation’s hopes of recovery.

In January this year the UK government announced an amendment to the UK slot rules. The change marked a divergence from the widespread alleviation which had become common place during the pandemic and is a step closer to the familiar 80/20 rule which was in place before March 2020. The rule requires all airlines operating at UK Level 3 coordinated airports to operate 70% of their slot series in Summer 2022 (S22) to claim their historic slots for the following 2023 Summer season.

Despite optimism in the demand for travel, the impact of staff shortages, covid case numbers and ongoing travel restrictions, means there is still uncertainty in the aviation market. This is evident in airlines latest slot holdings and the comparisons with Summer 2019 (S19).

When compared with S19, the start of the S22 season has seen a reduction of 4.58% in scheduled movements across all UK, Level 3 airports. The lowering in demand is driven by a 13% reduction in April as airlines shortened their historic season or returned slots in response to the 70/30 utilisation requirement. As the season progresses the average reduction between start of season 2019 and 2022 is 6.35%. It remains to be seen if carriers will make further reductions as the date of operation approaches.

Figure 1 – Line chart shows the number of scheduled movements by IATA week number and season snapshot across all UK level 3 airports.

At an airport level, the start of the season comparison shows three out of eight UK Level 3 airports are reporting marginal growth. As a London system, overall movements have declined in S22 compared to S19 with a reduction of over sixteen thousand movements (2.18%) compared to pre-pandemic levels

Figure 2 – Bar chart shows the number of scheduled movements by airport at the start of the Summer 2019 and 2022 seasons.
Figure 3 – Tables shows the difference in scheduled movements by airport between the start of the summer 2019 and summer 2022 seasons.

This growth is already a reduction on information captured at initial coordination in November 21, where seven out of eight Level 3 airports showed growth compared to the demand observed at initial coordination for S19.

Figure 4 – Bar chart shows the percentage difference in demand at initial coordination by airport at the start of the Summer 2022 season against the Summer 2019 season.

Similarly, five of the top ten most served routes by movements across all Level 3 airports showed growth in November 21 when compared to pre-pandemic levels. Four months later, at the start of the season, eight of the ten routes have seen a decline.

Figures 5 and 6 – Tables showing the top 10 most scheduled routes after S22 initial coordination and start of season respectively.

It is difficult to predict whether any remaining growth will continue during the season. The last two years have demonstrated short-notice changes in restrictions can disrupt planned operations. Whist such issues may be less prevalent, they have been replaced with other operational challenges. Shortages of resources and high levels of covid infections have led to disruption, cancellations, and volatility in airline schedules and airport demand.

While travel remains high on peoples wishlists; the demand for travel appears to be recovering quicker than supply can be delivered. At this stage of the coordination cycle the number of movements are 4.58% below the same snapshot in S19. Whilst we expect this to increase as the seasons progresses, the foundations are still there for growth.

If you would like to view more of our insights and compare how the start of S22 compares with the previous year, please view our start of season reports which can be found here. For more bespoke reporting, or access to ACL’s airport schedules please contact –

By Christakis Christodoulou, Airport Capacity Analyst



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