BRITISH AIRWAYS HAD a clutch of record traffic figures and its highest-ever profits to show as the group revealed an "outstanding" set of results for the first half of the financial year.

Net profits climbed to £323 million over the six months to September, as sales broke through £4 billion for the first time.

Passenger load-factors have continued to soar, improving every month so far this year and ending the half at a best-ever average of 76.9%. The improvement appears likely to continue as the airline moves into its weaker second half through to March, the end of its financial year.

The number of passengers logged also hit a record as traffic growth ran at a healthy 10% in premium and economy cabins. Yields appeared to edge down, but BA says that this is a direct result of strong growth in more profitable, but lower-yielding, long haul operations. Managing director Bob Ayling calculates that, for every 5% by which long-haul traffic growth outstrips short haul, yields will drop by 1%.

The record traffic figures came despite a 13% fall on the busy London-Paris route as passengers were poached by rail services through the newly opened Eurochannel rail tunnel. The Brussels route was also down by 10%, says Ayling, although he adds that this was well within expectations.

Rival KLM had already underlined the growth in European demand with a healthy rise in traffic and similar peaks in passenger load factors over the first half of the financial year. Premium passenger traffic grew by 12% in the September quarter, says the carrier.

Yields would also have grown by a couple of percentage points, but for the impact of the strong Dutch gilder, which left the carrier showing, a 5% fall over the half year. A high tax payment also saw net profits dip slightly.

Source: Flight International