BA September passenger figures dash hopes of a recovery in aviation sector

FLAG carrier British Airways (BA) carried 0.8 per cent fewer passengers in September year-on-year, dashing hopes the commercial aviation industry was recovering from the deep slump caused by the global recession.<br /><br />The airline, whose alliance with American Airlines and Iberia is being scrutinised by Europe&rsquo;s competition watchdog, said yesterday its premium, or business class, passenger numbers continued to tumble, falling 7.9 per cent on the 2008 figure. Non-premium traffic rose 0.7 per cent.<br /><br />Its load factor &ndash; a measure of how full its planes are &ndash; rose 2.4 percentage points to 81.3 per cent, with the airline saying it expected to deliver year-on-year growth by early 2010.<br /><br />&ldquo;In January, the comparative figures take another step down and there&rsquo;s every chance of getting into positive territory then,&rdquo; the airline said.<br /><br />&ldquo;Until then we see traffic flattening and steadying.&rdquo;<br /><br />It added that &ldquo;discussions continue&rdquo; with Iberia over a merger and that talks could come to head &ldquo;sooner rather than later&rdquo; once the issues surrounding governance were ironed out.<br /><br />Meanwhile, budget airline Ryanair said it had carried 6.12m passengers in September, 17 per cent more than a year ago, while the average flight was slightly fuller than last September. Its load factor increased one percentage point to 85 per cent.