British Airways sees a slump in air traffic as downturn hits

FLAG carrier British Airways (BA) said yesterday its premium passenger numbers for May tumbled 17.2 per cent, as airlines struggle to fill seats during the downturn.<br /><br />BA said its economy passenger numbers were down by only 4.2 per cent. Overall passenger numbers were down 6.5 per cent, suggesting the previous month&rsquo;s rise may have been a blip.<br /><br />The number had tumbled downwards for 13 straight months before a surge in travel over Easter led to a 0.9 per cent gain in April.<br /><br />BA cut its capacity last month by 5.3 per cent, less than the drop in traffic. This meant its load capacity dropped one percentage point to 75.1 per cent.<br /><br />Meanwhile, budget airline Ryanair said it had carried nine per cent more passengers for May than a year earlier.<br /><br />Its load factor &ndash; the number of passengers as a proportion of seats available &ndash; rose to 81 per cent from 80 per cent in the same month of 2008.