Aer Lingus offsets short-haul slump with 12pc US boost
The number of passengers carried last year by Aer Lingus was virtually unchanged at 9.6 million but it reported a surge in transatlantic travel even as fliers curtailed short-haul trips.
The airline said that it carried almost 1.1 million passengers on its US services in 2013, up 12.2pc on the previous year. It had added 11.6pc extra capacity during the year, and its US-bound aircraft were effectively full all the time.
Its load factor on transatlantic flights, or the percentage of seats that were filled, hit 83.1pc in 2013. That's higher than the 82.5pc it recorded in 2012.
But the short-haul business suffered. Aer Lingus and other airlines including Ryanair have been dealing with crimped demand for services within Europe, resulting in carriers being forced to cut fares.
Aer Lingus said that its short-haul traffic totalled 8.5 million passengers in 2013, down 1.7pc on 2012.
Its load factor on short-haul services last year was 75.6pc, virtually unchanged on 2012 even as capacity on the routes fell 4.1pc.
In December, long-haul passenger numbers at Aer Lingus were 11.8pc higher at 85,000, while on short-haul the figure was 2.1pc lower at 563,000.
The Aer Lingus Regional service, which is operated on a franchise basis by Stobart-controlled Aer Arann, carried 1.1 million passengers last year, up 10.1pc on 2012.
Analyst Donal O'Neill at Goodbody Stockbrokers described the passenger numbers for December at Aer Lingus as a "positive end to a difficult year" for the airline. He said in light of the solid December traffic, he's likely to retain his profit forecast of €59.6m for Aer Lingus in 2013.
Aer Lingus is expanding its services to North America this year, launching a route between Dublin and Toronto and also relaunching its Dublin-San Francisco service. It's also increasing frequencies from Shannon.
Shares in Aer Lingus closed up 1.5pc at €1.34.