European airlines report good growth in 2011: AEA

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Members of the Association of European Airlines (AEA) have recorded a healthy increase in passenger numbers over the first five months of 2011 compared to the same period last year.

Passenger boardings across the 36-airline AEA membership were up by 9.6% to almost 140 million, said the organisation. In terms of available passenger kilometres, the figure was 9.4%.

However, this was outpaced by a 10.9% rise in capacity, measured in available seat kilometres, resulting in a 1 percentage point drop in load factors to 74.1%.

The AEA admitted that the growth in passenger figures had to be seen against the background of the sharp dip in passenger numbers during the Icelandic volcanic ash incident of spring 2010. Stripping out its effect, the year-to-date rise was more moderate - around 6%.

Cross-border European traffic recorded the highest cumulative increase over the period, at 12.3% (although this was the region most heavily affected by 2010's ash incident).

Looking specifically at May 2011 traffic figures, transatlantic routes (to both North and Latin/South America) saw more than 10% growth in numbers, with intra-European, sub-Saharan African and Far Eastern services not far behind. The obvious exception was North Africa, where political problems meant that traffic remained "very depressed", and Middle East market growth was just 3.5%.

Provisional figures for June indicated continued buoyancy in traffic figures, with overall growth of around 7.5%. Predictions for July were that growth would be slightly higher, with particularly strong rises in Far East services.