Aer Lingus passenger numbers fall by 6.3pc
AER Lingus passenger numbers fell to 782,000 last month, a drop of 6.3pc compared to March of last year. The number of short-haul passengers declined by 4.7pc and long-haul figures were down 20.7pc.
The deterioration comes as the airline is finally getting around to slashing its annual operating costs by €97m after an acrimonious five-month negotiation process between unions and management.
The carrier said yesterday that 713,000 passengers flew on its short-haul routes in March. That decline came as the airline boosted capacity on short-haul services by 1.2pc.
The load factor, or percentage of seats filled, on short-haul routes fell 2.7pc to 75.9pc.
Aer Lingus carried just 69,000 passengers on its long-haul services to the US in March. It cut capacity by 29pc on those routes between March of last year and last month. The load factor on long-haul routes was 75.7pc, a 4.2pc increase on March 2009.
Aer Lingus took delivery last week of a new long-haul Airbus A330-300 aircraft, which it has named St Colman.
It also said yesterday that its new Washington DC-Madrid service, which is operated as a joint venture with United Airlines, carried 1,669 passengers in a four-day period last month.
The route was inaugurated on March 28 and faces competition from Iberia, which resumed flights between the two cities the following day.
The figures from Aer Lingus show that in the first three months of this year its short-haul passenger numbers were down 0.8pc at 1.939m, while its long-haul passenger numbers were 24.9pc lower at 172,000.
The Aer Lingus performance during March compares unfavourably with Easyjet, which said its passenger numbers jumped 13.5pc to 3.9m last month -- helped by strike action at British Airways.
Easyjet's numbers have climbed by double-digit percentages every month since the start of the calendar year.
On Wednesday, Ryanair said it carried 5.3m passengers in March -- up 13pc year-on-year.
Last month, Aer Lingus reported an operating loss of €81m for 2009 and a net loss of €130m. Pre-tax losses jumped to €154.8m, although it reported an operating profit before exceptional items of €12m in the second half of 2009.
Shares in Aer Lingus dropped nearly 4pc yesterday, before closing down 1.3pc at 76 cent.
Meanwhile, British Airways and Iberia yesterday moved closer to a planned merger by signing a formal agreement for the move.
Iberia chairman and CEO Antonio Vazquez said the companies hoped to complete the deal by the end of the year.