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Better load factor is key

AT LAST, there is sun on the horizon for the beleaguered airline industry. Easyjet yesterday said its passenger numbers were up 13.5 per cent in March compared to last year, a similar result to Ryanair, which carried 13 per cent more passengers last month.

Although both companies said they saw increased business thanks to the British Airways strike, the real story is improving fortunes at all three carriers, as well as the wider industry. While BA’s traffic fell in March, its underlying performance is still improving in line with peers.

Still, Easyjet is the leader of the pack. Its load factor – a key industry measure of how full its planes are – was impressive, rising 2.8 per cent to 87.5 per cent. Rival Ryanair managed a load factor of 77 per cent in March, an increase of two per cent on the same period in 2009, but still too low for a “pile ‘em high sell ‘em cheap” airline. That’s why Easyjet is still the best buy in this sector.

david.crow@cityam.com