Budget flights lead recovery from 11 September

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The Independent Online

The popularity of low-fare flights has helped the air travel industry restore, and even increase, its figures to pre-11 September levels.

The popularity of low-fare flights has helped the air travel industry restore, and even increase, its figures to pre-11 September levels.

The "low-cost phenomenon" with budget operators such as easyJet and Ryanair offering one-way flights for under £1 in some cases, has helped the industry recover after a dramatic dip in sales after the terrorist attacks in the US in 2001.

Low-cost airlines now account for 12 per cent of scheduled flights.

This month, there will be 30 per cent more low-cost flights to and from the UK compared to last April, according to the quarterly airline traffic statistics from OAG, a travel data company.

Statistics show that airlines will operate more than 2.27 million flights worldwide - 111,000 more than April last year and 45,000 more than in April 2001.

This means the low-fare airlines' share of the market has doubled in terms of flights since April 2001, and budget airlines now account for 15 per cent of seats worldwide.

This month, flights to and from the UK are up by 7 per cent on a year ago, and the number of domestic flights has also risen. Budget carriers will account for 300,000 of the 2.27 million flights worldwide.

Duncan Alexander, the managing director of OAG business development, said: "The low-cost phenomenon continues to break all records. After two truly turbulent years in 2002 and 2003, the world's airlines have clawed their way back to pre-September 11 levels. China and low-cost carriers are leading the overall recovery.

Toby Nicol, the director of corporate affairs at easyJet, which has a revenue of £1.2bn, said business had increased for budget airlines since 11 September.

"In April 2001, easyJet had carried around nine million passengers in a 12-month period, whereas in the last 12 months, we have carried 26 million.

"September 11 will come to be seen as a watershed in the global aviation world. Since then, the traditional airlines have been smaller, and low-cost airlines have mushroomed. After the terrorist attacks, we ran very major seat promotions and cut prices while traditional carriers put prices up due to extra security costs," he said.

He added that until the attacks, the "low-cost phenomenon" had not been truly accepted in Europe.

British Airways and Virgin Atlantic have been forced to cut capacity, with thousands of job losses, since 2001.

Europe, the Middle East, and Africa reflect the most dramatic year-on-year growth in low-cost operations, but all major world regions are showing double-digit percentage increases.

In the Asia-Pacific region, where low-cost aviation is quite new, budget flights have more than doubled since last year. In the established European and domestic US markets, low-cost airlines continue to expand.

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