BA passenger numbers plunge in strike chaos

City A.M. Reporter
BRITISH Airways carried 11.5 per cent fewer passengers in May year-on-year, hit by disruption caused by seven days of strikes by cabin crew.

BA, which earlier this year sealed its long-awaited merger with Spain's Iberia, carried 2.36m passengers last month, down from the 2.76m it flew in May 2009, while its load factor – a measure of how well it fills planes – fell 5.4 percentage points to 69.7 per cent.

Europe's third-largest airline said first and business-class travel – the most profitable part of its passenger business – fell 6.5 per cent but said underlying market conditions "continue to show improvement."

BA cabin crew are in the final day of their latest five-day strike, stemming from a long-running dispute over the airline's cost-cutting drive and staffing levels.

Another five-day walkout is due to start on 5 June.

The airline's crew held a four-day strike last week, following a three-day stoppage in March, after the Unite union and BA failed to reach a peace deal following weeks of talks.

BA said in a statement: "The financial impact of the strike continues at some £7m per day.

"The total cost of the strike period can only be assessed at the end of the disruption and will reflect lost bookings and reduced travel volumes offset by some volume driven cost savings."

The airline said it had been operating 70 per cent of long-haul flights from London Heathrow and 55 per cent of short-haul services from the airport during the latest strike.

Flights out of London Gatwick and City airports were unaffected.

The airline said it planned to increase to more than 80 per cent of long-haul flights from

Heathrow if next week's strike goes ahead and 60 per cent of short-haul flights.

Industry body IATA said airline finances rebounded strongly in the first quarter of this year, following a strong increase in passenger demand.

BA last week posted a record £531m full-year loss but said it would break even next year, despite the threat of more strikes this year.