COVID-19 has forced airlines to rethink their route planning and forecasting operations. Tom Batchelor looks into the measures taken
The industry may now have recovered much of the pre-pandemic traffic levels – even exceeding them in regions such as central Asia and parts of Latin America – but the way in which airlines shape their networks has been altered fundamentally. Traditionally, network planners have decided on new routes and the ticket prices that determine profitability based on a vast amount of historical booking and pricing data. However, with the pandemic having disrupted established trends in air travel, this data has become less reliable. The challenge for network planners has been to match capacity with varying recovery patterns, since COVID-19 affected different markets in different ways. Predicting which city pairs would recover was “as much art as science through the early months of the pandemic”, said a report on network planning produced by technology provider Sabre. Much of that uncertainty, particularly in markets such as China, remains.