North American domestic scheduled air capacity is at its lowest for a decade while global services continue to grow, particularly in the Middle East, latest official data has shown.

The OAG FACTS (Frequency and Capacity Trend Statistics) for August has revealed there will be 21,401 fewer flights within North America compared to the same month in 2011.

However, while consolidation and capacity cutting is taking place in the US, the biggest growth in the sector is being seen in the Middle East, particularly in Dubai.

The OAG data shows there will be a million more seats and 4,000 more flights offered to and from the region in August this year compared to the same month in 2011.

Rob Shaw, OAG’s director of analytics, said: “Against the backdrop of a slowing economy the North American region is experiencing general consolidation of its internal scheduled air services.

“This is partly the natural consequence of the well-publicised airline mergers of recent years, but it also reflects the strategy of individual carriers in a tough trading environment: reducing capacity to maintain fares at a profitable level.”

Only three of North America’s top 10 hubs (San Francisco, 7%, Charlotte, 5% and Toronto, 4%) will show significant growth in seat capacity this month, while capacity at Chicago O’Hare will drop by three per cent.

International capacity from the US will increase 2% but this remains some distance behind growth in the Middle East.

There flight operations will grow by 7% and seat capacity by 8% to 64,252 and 14.2 million respectively.

The Middle East region’s key hubs are all experiencing strong year-on-year growth, with Abu Dhabi seeing seats increasing by 248,896 (up 17%), Doha by 244,470 (11%) and Bahrain by 114,560 (11%). But the strongest performer in the region is Dubai, with 782,544 additional seats and 2,694 additional flight operations compared with August 2011.

“Strategically, the Middle East is growing in importance all the time, particularly in terms of its links with Western Europe,” said Shaw.

“While capacity reductions are continuing on several key routes between Western Europe and the Asia-Pacific region, more than 400,000 extra seats are now offered between Western Europe and the Middle East.

“Of these, more than 70 per cent are on services to and from Dubai and Abu Dhabi, largely reflecting the continued expansion plans of the premier Gulf-based airlines.”

OAG said Dubai is growing the fastest among rival global hubs where seat capacity at the 10 largest will grow in August meaning global flight services are up 1% and seat capacity up 3%.

Beijing’s 8% increase sees it close the gap on Atlanta as the world’s largest hub in terms of seats while Heathrow’s nearest challenger for third spot, Tokyo, will see a 375,000 seat or 5% increase in August.

Worldwide, airlines have increased flights by 16,948 and seats by 9,608,208, taking the total scheduled flight operations for August to 2,789,437 and the total of seats offered to 361,193,356.