ANALYSIS: European load factor still rising in January

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Load factor among European airlines climbed again in January as collective passenger traffic growth of 5.4% outpaced the additional 4.5% of capacity they put into the market.

All bar three of the 15 carriers to have so far reported RPK traffic data for January 2014 improved load factor at least fractionally. Two of the three carriers to see a fall in load factor are restructuring Air Berlin and Iberia. 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 a while been placing more focus on improving yields rather than market share as part of its restructuring.

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Traffic was down 7% at Iberia, but this was more than offset for parent IAG by British Airways, which grew traffic 7% on more than 5% extra capacity, and continued rapid expansion of Vueling.

Air France-KLM lifted its group load factor nearly two points to 83.3% as traffic growth of 3.6% outpaced modest capacity increases in January.

There was a similar pattern across Lufthansa Group’s passenger business, which also incorporates Austrian Airlines and Swiss alongside the Lufthansa mainline and Germanwings operations. Group load factor was up nearly a point as traffic growth of 2.8% more than met the additional capacity added in January.

Aer Lingus, Icelandair and Norwegian all reported strong load factor growth in January over the same month last year, while EasyJet – which does not disclose monthly RPK figures – says its load factor for the month was up a point at 85.4%.