AEA passenger numbers down 9.0% in first half of 2009; load factors down 2.1 points

Image: Swiss at Zurich
Swiss is just one of two AEA member airlines that carried more passengers in the first half of 2009 than in 2008 (the other being Turkish Airlines). This contributed to Zurich airport reporting traffic growth of 1.7% in June.

AEA statistics for the first half of 2009 reveal the varying fortunes of the association’s members and how traffic trends vary by travel region. In the last three months traffic declines have not been quite as severe as in the first quarter, helped by Easter’s return to its more traditional April slot and the fact that for June comparisons are being made with last June when traffic was starting to show the first sign of decline. Between now and the end of 2009 traffic figures are likely to start to look better as they are being compared with periods last year when demand was starting to increasingly fall away.

Chart: AEA airlines: Traffic by region (January 2008 to June 2009 vly)
Source: AEA

During the second quarter of 2009 traffic growth has consistently come on routes to the Middle East, sub-Sahara Africa and North Africa. Domestic traffic is still down around 10% versus the second quarter of last year. While many regional markets spiked in April, domestic traffic dipped reflecting the role of business traffic in this market.

In June passenger numbers were down 7.1% while load factors were down just 1.3 percentage points with 10 of the 28 member airlines reporting an improvement in load factor compared with June 2008, suggesting that airlines are finally getting a handle on balancing the revised levels of demand with capacity.

Only Turkish Airlines and Swiss growing

A look at passenger numbers across the 28 member airlines reporting shows that only two, Turkish Airlines and Swiss, have reported an increase in passenger numbers during the first half of 2009.

Chart: AEA airlines performance 2009 H1 (Change in passenger numbers 2009 H1 v 2008 H1)
Source: AEA

Two airlines saw passenger numbers drop by more than 20%. These were Aerosvit (Ukraine) and bmi (UK). Among the larger European carriers the almost 18% reduction in passenger numbers at SAS is possibly the most alarming.

Chart: AEA airlines performance 2009 H1 (Change in passenger load factors 2009 H1 v 2008 H1)
Source: AEA

A comparison of first half average load factor reveals that three airlines managed to improve their load factors, led by bmi which despite having cut capacity (ASKs) by 21.7%, saw traffic (RPKs) decline by only 16.1% resulting in a 4.4 point improvement in load factors to 67.0%. Finnair (+1.8 percentage points to 70.0%) and Virgin Atlantic (+0.3 percentage points to 76.0%) also enjoyed gains in load factor.

At the other end of the scale Ukraine International saw its load factor fall from 66.5% to just 54.1% in the first half. A small increase in capacity (ASKs) of 0.7% was met with an 18.2% reduction in traffic (RPKs). Olympic Airlines and Tarom both saw their average load factor fall by 11.2 percentage points to 51.7% for Olympic and 49.9% for Tarom. No other AEA airline reported a lower load factor than Tarom in the first half of 2009.


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