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European World Cup Trips Surge Even as Carriers Freeze Capacity

Flight bookings for the soccer World Cup have gained most in northern Europe, according to research published today, with demand for travel to Brazil from the U.K. almost tripling even as most carriers avoid adding extra seats.

Bookings from Germany have doubled, with a 70 percent gain in France, flight-reservation specialist Amadeus said, citing data from travel agents. Demand is up 68 percent for flights from U.S., where carriers have been keener to ramp up capacity.

“Many airlines could be missing an opportunity to make the most of high traveller demand,” Amadeus said in a statement. “Capacity has remained flat in the summer months of 2014 even as searches and bookings have seen dramatically high spikes correlating with the beginning of the World Cup.”

Football fans backing countries including England, Germany and the Netherlands traditionally travel in their tens of thousands to watch the World Cup. Brazil bookings from south European nations Italy, Portugal and reigning champions Spain are down 10 percent on 2013, reflecting a lower propensity to attend the tournament and the impact of the last recession.

While southern Europe’s fans may not be traveling in huge numbers, carriers based there will still benefit as supporters from further north fly via their hubs in Lisbon, Madrid and Rome, Amadeus said, with such bookings surging 185 percent from a year earlier, according to the data.

U.S.-Brazil capacity is up 15 percent for the May-August period, according to Amadeus, with the World Cup months of June and July showing a further 3 percent peak versus the preceding and following periods.

European capacity is up 6 percent, though airlines could still add flights to meet specific demand from fans of those teams that surive into the latter stages of the tournament. Airlines that don’t add seats should also benefit as load factors gain, boosting fares, as operating costs unchanged.

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