AEA passenger numbers down 9.5% in Q1; load factors down 2.7 points

Image: Turkish Airlines launched thrice-weekly Istanbul-Benghazi (Libya) services
Turkish Airlines launched thrice-weekly Istanbul-Benghazi (Libya) services last week – the only AEA airline to report passenger growth in Q1.

AEA statistics for the first quarter of 2009 reveal the varying fortunes of the association’s members and how traffic trends vary by travel region. Total passenger number declines have stabilised at between 8% and 10% since last November. If February’s extra day in 2008 is allowed for February also follows this trend.

Chart: AEA airlines: Traffic by region
Source: AEA

The Middle East and the relatively small sub-Sahara Africa markets are the only ones not showing significant reductions in 2009. The significant improvement in domestic traffic’s fortunes in March can be attributed to Easter moving back into April. As a result the more business oriented domestic markets carried on flying in 2009. In April this market will likely dip back down again relative to the others.

Only Turkish Airlines still growing; bmi has biggest LF gain

A look at passenger numbers across the 28 member airlines reporting (Air One and Alitalia figures have not been provided) shows that only one, Turkish Airlines, has reported an increase in passenger numbers during the first quarter.

Chart: AEA airlines performance 2009 Q1
Source: AEA

Five airlines saw passenger numbers drop by more than 20%. These included the national airlines of Belgium, Iceland and Poland, plus Aerosvit (Ukraine) and bmi (UK). Two of Europe’s biggest airlines, Iberia and SAS, also saw traffic plummet by almost 20%.

Chart: AEA airlines performance 2009 Q1
Source: AEA
Image: bmi’s deputy CEO Tim Bye
Well, you may as well improve productivity: bmi cut capacity (ASKs) by 25.8%, but saw traffic (RPKs) decline by only 15.3%, resulting in a 7.1 point improvement in load factors to 64.2%. (That’s bmi’s deputy CEO Tim Bye pretending to sleep on the flatbed by the way.)

A comparison of first quarter average load factor reveals that three airlines managed to improve their load factors, led by bmi who despite having cut capacity (ASKs) by 25.8%, saw traffic (RPKs) decline by only 15.3% resulting in a 7.1 point improvement in load factors to 64.2%. Cyprus Airways and Finnair also enjoyed small gains in load factor.

At the other end of the scale Tarom saw its load factor fall from 59.3% to just 46.2% in the first quarter. An optimistic 2.8% increase in capacity (ASKs) was met with a 20.1% reduction in traffic (RPKs). Ukraine International saw its load factor drop from 62.8% to 50.3% while Olympic’s load factor fell from 57.6% to 48.0%. Apart from Tarom and Olympic, Croatia Airlines (49.4%) and Luxair (49.8%) also reported passenger load factors of less than 50%.


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