Comment: Could travel quotas be imposed to curb curse of overcapacity?

An excess of flights is forcing as all to sell at ridiculous prices and is damaging the environment, argues Sunvil chairman Noel Josephides

Tui’s Fritz Joussen’s warning of overcapacity in the airline industry won’t have come as a surprise to anyone (Travel Weekly, August 23).

The only surprise is that such a comment was not made years ago. It has been painfully obvious to us all that airline capacity is out of control and that this has hurt the whole travel industry. The travelling public, on the other hand, has never had it so good.

According to Joussen, the answer is a need for consolidation. But who, exactly, is going to consolidate with whom?

Michael O’Leary is once again warning that there will be failures – but exactly which airline/s is/are going to fail? Will it be British Airways, easyJet, Lufthansa, KLM – or even Ryanair? Any such scenario is unlikely, and the failure of a minnow will make no difference.

The target of O’Leary has seemingly been Norwegian, but it now appears to be getting its house in order.

Failure and greed

If an airline fails, will greed take over, with other carriers immediately replacing the lost capacity as they all rushed to do when Air Berlin failed?

In the nearly 50 years I have been in the travel industry, I have never known of a failure, either of an airline or a tour operator, where capacity was not immediately replicated – or, more commonly, exceeded – by competitors hoping to gain an advantage.

There was a time when low-cost carriers sold their capacity cheaply to start with and then charged more for late bookings. That has all but disappeared. There is now so much to sell that it’s getting to be cheap all the time, except for bank holidays, when prices are astronomical.

Cheap fares

Many airlines boast about their high load factors, but this is meaningless. The entire airline and tour operating industries need high load factors because, for a lot of the time, we are all being forced to sell at ridiculous prices due to gross overcapacity.

Joussen is right when he says: “Is a €19 fare to Majorca a good thing? No, it is not.” He then goes on to say: “We will see different prices if the number of aircraft is reduced.”

Well, who is going to reduce prices when there are so many hundreds of aircraft on order? The current situation is bad for all of us. It is bad for the environment. It is bad because squeezing the maximum possible number of seats on to aircraft makes flying so uncomfortable for our clients. (Ever flown on a high-density A320neo? It’s quite ghastly).

Forget all the talk about carbon offsetting and the use of more-efficient, less-polluting aircraft. It’s overcapacity that is killing us all and the environment and, unfortunately, the airline industry seems incapable of doing anything about it except talk.

Airlines’ ridiculously low fares have helped to create not only the so-called sharing economy and the totally unregulated Airbnb, but also the problem of overtourism.

Only government regulation can halt what is happening. I wonder, as global warning spreads panic, whether travel quotas will come to haunt us?

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