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Cirium Names December as Busiest Month for Air Travel Globally in 2021; Over 59,000 Flights Are Canceled Near Year-End, the Most in a Decade

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Aviation analytics firm Cirium, reveals that December was the busiest month in 2021 for flights globally, totaling 2.43 million, however the total number of flights canceled globally between December 24, 2021, and January 3, 2022, was 59,240, some 2.4%.

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According to Cirium data, the big four US airlines canceled nearly 7,040 flights between December 24 and January 3, 2022. Globally, over 59,000 flights were canceled over this period. (Graphic: Business Wire)

The number of cancelations over this period is the most cancelations in December for the past decade, six times more than the cancelations in 2019 and two and half times more than 2020. A total of 20,500 flights were canceled in the first three days of the new year.

The big four US airlines, including American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Southwest Airlines and United Airlines, canceled nearly 7,040 flights over this period.

The cancelations being driven by the surging cases of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 and other operational challenges (including winter weather). Airlines rapidly canceled flights due to staff shortages across crew and ground operations.

Pre-Omicron, global flights flown increased 1.5% week-over-week (December 11-17, 2021). However, global flights are now down 5% compared to the week prior, following the impact of Omicron.

There are large variances between the regions, with the US, Europe and North Atlantic down 9-10%, China up 6%, while Asia-Pacific and Middle East are flat.

“Flight disruptions affect airlines and airports differently – it depends on the availability and flexibility of equipment and resources in place to react quickly. Those that plan more conservatively will minimize their operational disruptions. Cirium monitors the level of disruption by measuring completion factor of flights and their on-time performance,” said Jeremy Bowen CEO at Cirium.

“Cirium’s recent On-Time Performance Review shows how some airlines have focused on their operations to reduce the impact on passengers. For example, Delta Air Lines completed 99.8% of their flights from June to December 2021 and All Nippon Airways, the winner of the Global airline category in Cirium’s Review had a completion factor of 99.2%.”

Consideration is given to the carriers with high volumes of flights. For example, American Airlines flew the most flights in 2021 – around 1,850,050 – and still, its flights arrived 80.47% on time. The carrier did have trouble reinstating flight volumes after more than a year of deeply depressed demand yet completed 97.5% of its flights.

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL), the major hub for Delta Air Lines, was the busiest airport based on departing flights with 336,890 this year. Despite handling the most flights, it ranked 15th in on-time performance of the Top 20 Global airports.

Amsterdam Airport (AMS) was the busiest airport for international flights in 2021, with a total of 123,070 departing flights, however, it didn’t make the Top 20 airport rankings for on-time performance. Airports have experienced many variables this year in deploying comprehensive pandemic protocols, optimizing the reconciliation and collection of fees and services, and optimizing staffing.

Cirium’s On-Time Performance Review is the industry standard for airlines and airports operational performance. Cirium resumed reporting in June 2021, as flight volumes returned, with regular monthly updates that help gauge the industry’s performance in getting passengers from point A to point B, on time. Cirium’s on-time performance analysis is based on flight data from over 600 sources of real-time flight information.

Click here to download the complimentary On-Time Performance Review 2021.

About Cirium

Cirium brings together powerful data and analytics to keep the world moving. Delivering insights, built from decades of experience in the sector, enabling travel companies, aircraft manufacturers, airports, airlines and financial institutions, among others, to make logical and informed decisions which shape the future of travel, growing revenues and enhancing customer experiences. Cirium is part of RELX, a global provider of information-based analytics and decision tools for professional and business customers. The shares of RELX PLC are traded on the London, Amsterdam and New York Stock Exchanges using the following ticker symbols: London: REL; Amsterdam: REN; New York: RELX.

For further information please follow Cirium updates on LinkedIn or Twitter or visit www.cirium.com.

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Contact information

Cirium media team (Rachel Humphries/June Lee) at media@cirium.com
Juliett Alpha (Mike Arnot) at cirium@juliettalpha.com
The PC Agency (Paul Charles/Michael Johnson/Callum McGoldrick at cirium@pc.agency

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