Over the full year, Europe’s network airlines carried a total of 363 million passengers. This provisional figure, covering 31 of AEA’s 35 members, is 24 million up on 2010. Traffic (measured in RPKs) rose by 8%, but capacity growth (measured in ASKs) remained a step ahead at 8.9%. This slight shortfall in demand caused AEA’s average load factor to slip by 0.6 of a percentage point to 77.3%.
Based on this positive traffic performance, AEA expects its member airlines to post a collective €1.5 billion EBIT profit in 2011, up from €0.5 billion in 2010.
“There is much to encourage us in the 2011 figures. In times of austerity and financial turmoil, European citizens continue to vote for air travel in unprecedented numbers,” said AEA Secretary General Ulrich Schulte-Strathaus.
The 2010 baseline was depressed by several significant events, notably the closure of European airspace in May due to the perceived risk of volcanic ash contamination and airport closures in late 2010 as facilities failed to cope with the winter weather.
“Even after adjusting for the exceptional events of 2010, we still saw 6% underlying RPK growth. Unfortunately we cannot, and do not, expect this buoyancy to last. Air freight – a key barometer for the industry – has been slowing since May and we began to see passenger traffic cool down in the final quarter of 2011. Meanwhile, fuel costs remain cripplingly high and aviation continues to be a target for additional regulatory burdens, further impacting financial stability,” concluded Mr Schulte-Strathaus.