European regionals log record loads

 - June 9, 2008, 7:19 AM

Feeder carriers in Europe saw record passenger loads last year as increased passenger numbers outstripped the growth in seats, according to the European Regions Airline Association (ERA). Member operators carried 7.5 percent more passengers in 2007 than in the preceding year, compared with a 5.2-percent increase in seat numbers.

The growth translated into record 65-percent passenger load factors as traffic (revenue passenger seat-miles/kilometers) gains of 9.6 percent came in comfortably ahead of changes in capacity (available seat-mile/kilometers), which rose by 7.5 percent. The higher capacity increase over that in seat numbers resulted from regional airlines’ longer average sector lengths in the first 10 months of last year, a factor that also accounts for the greater traffic growth over gains in passenger numbers.

ERA officials say load factors have been rising consistently for “several” years, having increased last year by some 2 percent over equivalent 2006 figures. September saw the highest loads, with just over 70 percent of seats occupied. ERA director-general Mike Ambrose attributed the higher load factors to an increased focus on yield control by European regionals.

With punctuality often dictated by air-navigation constraints in Europe’s crowded skies, the airlines reported an improvement of one percentage point in on-time dispatch reliability. The number of flights departing within 15 minutes of their scheduled time rose from 83 percent in 2006 to 84 percent last year. While just over 15 percent of services were delayed, numbers of flights canceled remained at the previous year’s 1.8 percent.