In May 2021, Europe’s airlines can slowly see the light at the end of the Covid-tunnel. However, the COVID’s third wave hit the continent hard and urged European airlines —at the peak— to ground almost 1,000 additional aircraft. 

COVID 3rd Wave And Its Impact On Airlines

There are many ways to measure COVID’s impact on airlines: The number of flights, seat capacity, or passengers is just a few of them. However, pictures of airports packed with grounded aircraft will indeed remain in the people’s memory.

Parked Aircraft due to COVID's Third Wave Airline
Lufthansa Aircraft Parked at Frankfurt Airport due to COVID — Source: Wikipedia

Besides the emotional factor, the number of grounded aircraft reflects an excellent pandemic indicator. From a global perspective, the number of parked aircraft due to COVID-19 has decreased from 35% in July 2020 to 31% in March 2021. Once we exclude Europe from the calculation, the numbers look even better: Although the starting in July 2020 remains at 35%, the amount of parked aircraft decreases to 28% in March 2021.

Jul ’20Aug ’20Oct ’20Nov ’20Dec ’20Feb ’21Mar ’21
Global35%33%32%32%31%31%31%
Global (excl. Europe)35%33%31%30%29%28%28%
Percentage of Parked Aircraft In Relation To Total Fleet

COVID 3rd Wave Hit European Airlines More Than any Other!

When we take a closer look at the detailed numbers, it becomes evident that European airlines —more than any other— suffered from Covid’s third wave.

Jul ’20Aug ’20Oct ’20Nov ’20Dec ’20Feb ’21Mar ’21
Asia Pacific22%22%21%20%20%21%21%
North America35%35%34%32%32%32%32%
Europe33%32%34%43%40%47%43%
Latin America44%38%34%31%28%27%29%
MEA41%39%37%36%35%33%31%
Percentage of Parked Aircraft In Relation To Total Fleet

Between July 2020 and February 2021, European airlines grounded more than 1,000 additional aircraft. February was the peak month when European airlines grounded almost 50% of their aircraft fleet.

Jul ’20Aug ’20Oct ’20Nov ’20Dec ’20Feb ’21Mar ’21
Europe2521248726003265308935363252
Total Numbers of Parked Aircraft

Other World Regions Outperformed Europe

Moreover, it is interesting to see that no other world region went through a similar development. 

  • Asia/Pacific remained stable the entire period from July 2020 to March 2021 with a share of parked aircraft of 20%-22%.
  • North America reduced the ground fleet from 35% in July 2020 to 32% in November and maintained the status until March 2021.
  • Latin America massively and steadily reduced the amount of grounded aircraft from 44% in July 2020 to 29% in March 2021.
  • The Middle East and African carriers also reduced the amount of parked aircraft from 41% in July 2020 to 31% in March 2021.
Stored Aircraft | COVID 3rd Wave And Its Impact On Airlines

Why European Airlines Suffer From COVID’s 3rd Wave More Than Other Regions

The question remains why Europe and subsequently European airlines suffer from COVID more than any other world region. From our point of view, two explanations are relevant.

First of all, COVID’s 3rd wave hit European countries harder than many other regions. Therefore, it is evident that flight demand decreased during that time. Nevertheless, worth mentioning that other regions and countries (e. g., India or Brazil) were also hit hard. Accordingly, there must be an additional aspect that impacted airlines and sent European aircraft to the parking lot. In our opinion, this is about the share of international flights. 

The latest traffic figures show that domestic routes account for the most traffic at the moment. However, European countries have a rather small share of domestic traffic. On the contrary, European airlines built their business model on Intra-European and intercontinental traffic. Accordingly, the business model of European airlines is extremely vulnerable to global crises.

COVID’s 3rd Wave’s Impact on Airlines — What do you Think?

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Data sources
This article is based on various data sources: Cirium, and internal data sources.

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Benjamin is a content-maniac, music-lover, aviation-enthusiast, and CEO of Information Design (in this order). His daily business revolves around pioneering solutions to change the way airlines, airports, and aviators use information. His visions are based on expertise gained in more than 15 years in the industry and working with renowned airlines + airports worldwide.