Long-haul traffic slumps after Aer Lingus route cuts
THE number of passengers flying Aer Lingus on long-haul flights plunged last month after the airline closed routes to major US cities last year to cut costs.
The number of people flying long haul fell 23pc to 57,000 in January after the carrier stopped or curtailed flights to Washington, Los Angeles, Chicago and San Francisco.
The airline said in August that it would slash the size of its transatlantic fleet so that it would not have to buy new planes until 2013. The move shrank the airline's transatlantic fleet to just seven planes.
The fall in long-haul passengers pushed down so-called revenue-passenger kilometres by 6.3pc -- an important metric which tracks the volume of paying passengers using the airline and excludes passengers, such as staff or babies, who do not pay for seats.
The number of passengers flying on short-haul flights rose 3.6pc to 608,000 as the airline benefited from the opening of a new base in Gatwick Airport near London last spring.
It was the 10th consecutive rise in short-haul passenger numbers. The rise in short-haul passenger numbers pushed up the airline's total passenger numbers by 0.6pc last month.
Overall capacity fell 10.7pc, leading to a rise in the load factor of 3.1 percentage points to 67.4pc, Aer Lingus added.
"The airline has increased short-haul capacity every month throughout the downturn, bar February and March 2009, driven presumably by the opening of the new Gatwick base last year," Marina Devitt, an analyst at Goodbody Stockbrokers, said yesterday.
"This growth will be tempered going forward as two (of five) aircraft are due to be taken out of the base from the end of March."
Air France-KLM said yesterday that passenger numbers fell 1.6pc last month but there were fewer spare seats as reductions in capacity continued to cut deeper than the fall in bookings. Traffic fell 0.5pc on Americas and Asian networks.
Last week, British Airways posted a surprise October-December operating profit, helped by heavy cost cutting, but said it was still in a worse position than last year. BA's January traffic fell 7pc.