European low-cost load factors rise again in February

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European budget operators Ryanair and Norwegian both lifted passenger load factors by a percentage point in February as the carriers from the sector continued a strong traffic start to the year.

Passenger load factor at Ryanair was up a point to 78% as it increased passenger numbers 7% to 4.5 million in February.

Load factor at fast-expanding Norwegian rose to 79.3% as traffic increased 48% in February compared with the same month in 2012. This outpaced the extra 46% capacity the airline - whose traffic and capacity figures are also bolstered after launching long-haul operations last year - added in February. Passenger numbers were up 22% into 1.5 million for the month.

"The load factor increases, even with a strong capacity growth, something we’re very satisfied with," says Norwegian chief executive Bjorn Kjos.

"At the same time, there’s strong competition in the market and many affordable tickets available, which benefits the customers. At Norwegian, we are prepared to meet the competition by introducing even more brand new aircraft to the fleet, expanding the route network and adding new destinations to the route map. New aircraft with lower fuel burn is key to keeping costs down and continue to offer more low-fare tickets."

Norwegian took delivery of two more Boeing 737-800s nearer the time.

Passenger load factor at EasyJet was up 0.2 percentage points to 90.7% in February. This comes off the back of a 3% rise in passenger numbers to 4.23 million.

It was a different story though at other European carriers to report traffic figures today. Passenger load factor was down a point at Irish carrier Aer Lingus to 67.3% as traffic fell fractionally on capacity increased more than 1%. This in part reflected cuts on its short-haul operation as traffic fell 3.3% on 1.3% less capacity. By contrast the airline lifted traffic and capacity on long-haul operations by 6% and also increased traffic on its regional operation.

Load factor was even more sharply down at repositioning at Air Berlin - which is adding more year-round capacity in an effort to reduce some of the seasonality in its business and has seen load factors fall as a result. As a result passenger capacity was more than 6% higher in February than the same month in 2012, while traffic grew only a little more than 1%. Consequently passenger load factor slipped 3.5 points to 81.7% in February.