Mostly gone are the days when you could get an entire row of airline seats to yourself; with flights worldwide fuller than ever, travellers are lucky even to have a middle seat open between themselves and a fellow passenger.
Forbes reports that, worldwide, the average load factor for commercial airliners has reached 81.9 per cent in 2018, meaning more than eight of every 10 seats on the average flight is full. That’s up from an average of 75.2 per cent in 2005.
In the US, the increase has been even more dramatic, with average load factor rising from 67.88 per cent in 2002 to 86.08 per cent in 2018.
Low-cost carriers tend to have the highest load factors, although the basic economy fares offered by big airlines like Delta have helped fill seats, too.
Globally, Ryanair is the most crowded airline flying, with an average load factor of 94.7 per cent in 2017. Other airlines with load factors over 90 per cent include India’s Spicejet, Europe’s Easyjet, Wizz Air, and Air Asia.
Major carriers with above-average load factors include Norwegian (87.7 per cent), Delta (86.2 per cent), Hawaiian Airlines, (85.6 per cent), Alaska Airlines (85.5 per cent), and Jet Blue (85 per cent).
According to research by The Telegraph earlier this year, airlines with relatively low load factors are Emirates, Etihad, Flybe, Austrian, and Virgin Atlantic.