The odds of having a vacant seat beside you on your next flight are getting smaller

Marianna Massey/AFP/Getty Images

If you’re hoping to have a vacant seat beside you the next time you fly, we have some bad news for you.

Planes are filling up.

According to data released by the International Air Transport Association (IATA), industry-wide load factors — simply measuring the number of passengers to seats available — rose to the highest level on record for the month of July this year, increasing to 85.2%.

As seen in the chart below, load factors hit record highs for July in all regions except for the Middle East and Africa.


“July international passenger demand rose 5.3% compared to July 2017, which was a deceleration compared to the 8.2% growth recorded in June. Total capacity climbed 4.7%, and load factor edged up half a percentage point to 85.0%,” IATA said.

“Domestic travel demand grew by 7.8% year-on-year in July, broadly in line with 8.0% growth recorded in June. Domestic capacity climbed 6.9%, and load factor rose 0.8 percentage point to 85.6%.”

The number of seats is increasing, in other words, just not as fast as demand.

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