ANALYSIS: Leading airline markets by capacity in December

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Intra-Asia is the largest air travel market capacity in December, as weekly ASK figures from Innovata shows a double-digit increase in supply.

The December figures show airlines adding 12% in capacity on intra-Asian routes. Airlines have also sharply increased capacity on flights between Asia and the Middle East - rising 14%, albeit off a relatively low base. Capacity though is up only fractionally on routes between Asia and Europe and by only around 4% to North America.

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IATA in its latest profit outlook envisages Asia-Pacific carriers posted collective profits of $3.2 billion. While still standing out as the second most profitable region - it continues the run of declining profits since the $11.1 billion Asian carriers made in 2010. While IATA sees this improving by around $1 billion next year it cites the impact on supply-demand conditions from an expected delivery of over 700 aircraft in 2014 as - alongside weak air cargo demand - as a factor in the region's subdued profits performance.

North American carriers continue their tight grip on capacity, most notably on the domestic market where it is only fractionally increased in December the Innovata figures show. Much of the increase in IATA's overall profits outlook for the industry stemmed for a further strengthening in North American carriers' financial performance, benefiting from efficiencies driven through consolidation. North American carriers are set to post profits of $5.8 billion this year, rising to $8.3 billion in 2014.

United Airlines and Delta Air Lines, the largest carriers by ASKs in December, lifted capacity by 1.2% and 0.1% respectively in December. American Airlines and US Airways, which closed their merger earlier this months, were similarly cautious in capacity in December. American lifted it RPKs by 2.8%, while US Airways capacity was cut fractionally.

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In the low-cost carrier sector, the biggest three North American carriers - Southwest, JetBlue and Westjet - all lifted capacity by single-digits. Overall low-cost carrier capacity was increased 12.7% in December, more than double the 4.9% rate at which overall capacity was lifted among all airlines.

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Atlanta airport led the way in terms of weekly seats in December, just ahead of Beijing and Tokyo Haneda. London Heathrow, the future development of which should become clearer when the UK's Airports Commission publishes its initial recommendations for expansion in south-east England tomorrow, is the fifth biggest airport in December weekly seats.

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