TBI boosted by increase in no-frills passengers

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The Independent Online

TBI, the UK's second-largest airport operator, yesterday said passenger traffic at its four European airports rose 20 per cent in the second quarter as low-cost carriers encouraged more people to take to the skies.

The number of passengers passing through TBI's UK and Scandinavian airports in the past three months rose to 3.62 million. The passenger count from low-cost airlines rose 37 per cent to 2.6 million while the number of travellers on full-service carriers fell 29 per cent to 233,600.

TBI, whose London Luton Airport is the main base for easyJet, Europe's biggest low-fare airline, now deals primarily with low-cost carriers. EasyJet yesterday reported that passenger numbers were up 83 per cent in June to 1.75 million on the same period last year. Its passenger figures now total 18.9 million in the past 12 months.

"These figures are in line with our expectations. We are pleased with easyJet's performance, given the events that have adversely affected the airline market recently," Ray Webster, the chief executive of easyJet, yesterday said. The airline's load factor, which measures the proportion of the aeroplane seats that are actually filled, however, has worsened to 85.8 per cent from 86.6 per cent.

EasyJet's shares yesterday closed up 2 per cent at 248p, but analysts are keen to know how much the airline has had to slash its fares by in order to keep its passenger numbers high.

TBI operates London Luton Airport, Belfast International, Cardiff International and Stockholm Skavsta, where Ryanair, the second-largest low-cost carrier recently opened a base. TBI also runs airports in Bolivia. Traffic at Cardiff and Stockholm Skavsta saw the most growth for TBI.

Passenger numbers more than tripled at Stockholm Skavsta, which is currently TBI's smallest European airport and 36 per cent at Cardiff, its second-busiest in the region. British Midland's low-cost airline, bmibaby, has now set up a base at Cardiff.

Charter flights reduced marginally by 2.1 per cent to 791,300 passengers. Keith Brooks, the chief executive of TBI, yesterday said this market had been under intense pressure throughout the war in Iraq and a period of a weakening pound.

On an airport-by-airport basis, all of the group's core locations saw passenger growth of more than 8 per cent.