European airlines scramble to maintain passenger numbers amid poor weather

IRISH airline Aer Lingus rode out a sharp drop in its long-haul passenger business to post a small increase in overall passenger numbers in January.

Aer Lingus had 57,000 long haul passengers over the month, a 23 per cent fall from 2009. However, an increase in short haul figures, which make up the bulk of the airline’s business, meant it managed a 0.6 per cent rise to 665,000 passengers overall.

Aer Lingus said the weather had led to unusually high numbers of cancellations, which had “resulted in a greater than normal difference between Aer Lingus’ booked passenger numbers and flown passenger numbers”.

Meanwhile, rival Air France-KLM’s passenger figures fell for the month, although it said the impact of this had been reduced by a rise in its cargo business.

The Franco-Dutch airline said it had seen a decline in passenger traffic of 1.6 per cent compared with the same period last year, but added that cargo figures had benefited from an improved environment, and had seen a two per cent rise in traffic despite the firm reducing capacity by 11.4 per cent.

Both airlines partly blamed reduced passenger traffic on the adverse weather conditions of last month. Air France also said it suffered from a two-day strike by French air traffic controllers.