Expatica news

Passengers on European airlines drop

3 June 2008

BRUSSELS – More and more European flights are departing with empty seats as the continent’s major airlines continue to feel the pinch of the economic slowdown, the credit crunch and rising fuel prices, figures out Tuesday show.

According to the latest data from the Association of European Airlines (AEA), airline traffic in April was up just 1 percent from the same month in 2007. More significantly, the carriers’ load factor was down by an "alarming" 2.7 points over the same period.

The drop translates into a load factor of 74.8 percent, meaning that the average European flight departs with a quarter of its seats empty.

"Clearly, economic conditions are taking their toll in the marketplace as the global slowdown and the credit crunch impact business confidence and travel volumes, while resurgent inflation is severely affecting discretionary income," the AEA said in a statement.

The AEA report showed that the worst affected routes in April, in terms of traffic, were the domestic and North Atlantic routes.

The previously booming cross-border European market, by contrast, registered a modest growth of just 1.9 percent while traffic towards North Africa and the Middle East was up 4.5 and 5.2 percent respectively.

In the period between January to April 2008, overall passenger rates were up 2.6 percent when compared to the same period 2007. But the key passenger load factor was down by an aggregate 1.4 points to 73.5 percent.

Looking at the performance of individual airlines, beleaguered Alitalia suffered the biggest drop in terms of passengers (-25.9 percent when compared to April 2007), with its passenger load factor falling by 9.7 points.

The association, which groups 33 major European carriers – from Air France to Virgin Atlantic Airways – noted that many airlines were increasing ticket prices to mitigate soaring fuel costs and planned to make "substantial capacity cutbacks" after the summer.

Irish budget airline Ryanair, which is not a member of the AEA, also warned Tuesday that it would have to raise ticket prices and ground part of its fleet in the coming months.

[dpa / Expatica]