ANALYSIS: European airline market outlook February 2014

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Labour relations have been at the fore in Europe this month as the signs are that Iberia's fractious relations with its unions might be entering a new phase of co-operation.

Nearly a year into negotiations on productivity with its unions, the restructuring Spanish carrier has reached preliminary deals with pilot body SEPLA and unions representing a majority of its cabin crew. The productivity measures when implemented would bring the return of the additional 4% salary cut that was imposed pending agreement on productivity steps during a mediated settlement last year. That initial settlement had ended the industrial action that surrounded implementation of heavy job and network cuts at the Spanish carrier to stem losses.

Iberia will take particularly heart from the deal with pilots, given that the latter grouping failed to sign up to last year's mediated settlement and has long been at loggerheads with management over attempts to tackle its short-haul cost structure through the launch of Madrid operation Iberia Express. The deals raise the possibility of a return to growth at the Spanish carrier, after heavy cuts over the last year. The carrier has made any return to growth contingent on improving its cost base.

It comes after another European carrier – Etihad investment target Alitalia – agreed with its unions a productivity deal that could prevent the planned axing of 1,900 jobs at the loss-making SkyTeam member.

Labour costs and relations remain high on many European carriers' agendas, not least that of Aer Lingus, which is embarking on a new round of cost savings as part of its new Core restructuring initiative while also battling to resolve its dispute with unions over its pensions deficit.

Lufthansa's pilots are also to be balloted on possible industrial action over pay, a potential early challenge for the airline's new chief executive Carsten Spohr when he takes the helm later this year.


Etihad enters final phase of investment talks with Alitalia;

SunExpress,the Lufthansa-Turkish Airlines joint venture, places a firm order for 40 Boeing 737s, split between the -800 and -8 Max variants;

Lufthansa Group confirms Carsten Spohr as its new chief executive to replace Christoph Franz;

Air France-KLM to invest $100 million in Brazilian low-cost carrier Gol, as part of a long-term partnership that will cover joint sales and an expanded codeshare deal;

Turkish Airlines is closing in on a deal to wet-lease four Airbus A380s, which it plans to use on slot-constrained Chinese destinations;


Load factor across European carriers in January increased nearly a point to 77.5% as passenger traffic growth of nearly 8% for the first month of the year outpaced the 7% additional capacity. Just three out of 17 airlines to have reported traffic figures for January revealed a decline in load factor. That includes restructuring Iberia and Air Berlin. The German carrier saw load factor drop as it maintained capacity while it bids to develop year-round routes to take some of the seasonality out of its business. Iberia meanwhile has for some time been placing more focus on improving yields rather than market share as part of its restructuring.

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Traffic among European mainline carriers, as recorded by AEA members, grew 3% in December, outpacing the extra 2% capacity added and pushing load factor up almost a point. This is roughly in line with AEA carriers' general growth in traffic and load factor across the year.

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Figures from Flightglobal’s Ascend Online database show 5,821 aircraft in active service among European airlines in February. This is 21 fewer than in January. There are over 690 aircraft – just over 10% – of the overall European fleet in storage.

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