Airlines raise passenger numbers, but trouble looms

 

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The Independent Online

The airline groups EasyJet and Aer Lingus were both flying high in June, with new figures showing passenger numbers were on the rise, but there could be some turbulent times ahead for the former.

The budget airline company founded by Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou 20 years ago, said that following months of discussions with Unite – which represents UK cabin crew – it was unable to reach an agreement on a pay offer.

EasyJet has proposed a pay rise for cabin crew and cabin managers (4.1 per cent and 5.1 per cent, respectively, over two years). The company said the offer was well above inflation and added: “EasyJet can reassure its passengers that there is no industrial action currently planned by its UK cabin crew and that EasyJet is confident it will operate its full summer flight schedule.”

The update came as the company revealed its passenger numbers jumped to more than 6.5 million in June, up from 6.1 million in the same month last year.

Its load factor, a measure of how full the aircraft were, edged up to 92.7 per cent, however, the company did see the number of cancellations rise to 487 from 380. Robin Byde, an analyst at Cantor Fitzgerald, said: “The threat of strikes is gathering pace, with Unite about to ballot its cabin-crew members for action over pay.

“We estimate that just over 30 per cent of EasyJet crew are Unite members.”

EasyJet shares ended the day down 4p at 1,576p.

Brenda Kelly, the head analyst at London Capital Group, said: “A rise in June passenger numbers has helped EasyJet stock hold its own. The  12-month load number was 67.1 million. A rise through 1,600p is required if we are to make inroads towards the recent highs. However, threats of a cabin crew strike are hampering gains.”

Meanwhile, Aer Lingus showed why British Airways’ owner IAG has bid €1.4bn (£1bn) to bring the Irish carrier into its hangar, as it recorded a 15.6 per cent increase in long-haul traffic last month.

The group said the rise helped total traffic for June rise 2 per cent to 1.1 million passengers. Numbers on regional services dropped just over 9 per cent to 188,000. The passenger load factor was largely static at 85.8 per cent.

IAG wants to take over Aer Lingus and use Dublin as a hub between the UK, continental Europe and North America. European competition authorities have extended the deadline for their decision on whether to allow the bid to proceed until 15 July.

Separately, Wizz Air, the central and eastern European low-cost airline, said passenger numbers last month increased by 18 per cent to 1.7 million, from 1.5 million a year earlier. The load factor was 90.8 per cent, up from 89.7 per cent.

The airline is looking to expand by adding new aircraft and making Birmingham its eighth UK destination.

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