Traffic drops at Air France as slump hits

AIR FRANCE-KLM, Europe&rsquo;s biggest airline, yesterday said its traffic for September fell 3.7 per cent year-on-year, and reported continued pressure on revenues.<br /><br />But the Franco-Dutch carrier said it had boosted its load factor, a measure of how full its planes are.<br /><br />The airline carried 6.2m passengers in September, down 5.3 per cent on 2008, while traffic adjusted for the distance flown by each passenger &ndash; the industry&rsquo;s standard way of measuring activity &ndash; fell 3.7 per cent.<br /><br />It also reduced the number of seats on sale by 4.9 per cent, lifting the passenger load factor &ndash; or proportion of seats sold &ndash; by 1.1 percentage points to 81.9 per cent.<br /><br />&ldquo;Market conditions are similar to those prevailing before the summer and unit revenues remain under pressure,&rdquo; Air France-KLM said.<br /><br />Cargo traffic, which is seen as a barometer of international trade, fell 17.2 per cent.<br /><br />The proportion of available space filled rose 2.2 percentage points to 66.1 per cent.<br /><br />Several carriers have reported traffic starting to level out this week, but there are still worries facing the industry.<br /><br />Fuel prices, which airlines hedge in advance to get the best deals, are set to rise, and industry group IATA says most airlines face continued deep losses.<br /><br />Singapore Airlines and Air New Zealand put out signs of improving demand earlier this week, but cautioned a sustained recovery in the battered air travel market was still far from certain.<br /><br />Meanwhile, British Airways (BA) said on Monday it carried 0.8 per cent fewer passengers in September compared with the same month a year ago, although its load factor rose.<br /><br />In Europe, Air France-KLMcarried 835m passengers, down 3.8 per cent from the 868m carried last year.<br /><br />Its load factor for the month for Europe was 88.3 per cent, an increase of two percentage points from 85.9 per cent last year.