The European Regions Airline Association, which represents 70 intra-European airlines, has welcomed the “modest sign of gradual recovery” from the global recession. But the effect of airspace closures following the Icelandic volcanic eruption in April offset apparently strong underlying growth in European regional air travel in the year’s first half. If not for the related 10-percent drop in passenger numbers that month, the 2.9-percent increase recorded from January through June (over the first six months of 2009) would have settled closer to 6 percent.
ERA operators offered no additional seats this year, so an 8.6-percent gain in traffic (revenue passenger-miles flown) indicates that average sector length has continued to increase and now approaches 450 miles. Passenger load factors also have grown, as capacity (available seat-miles) rose by 3.9 percent–less than half the increase in traffic.
The cancellation of many flights during April meant overall first-half landings declined by 4.3 percent and accrued flying time by 4.4 percent. The figures suggest that the longer sectors are being flown at slightly higher speed, although the regional-jet share of the fleet has remained essentially the same. After a reduction in the proportion of turbofan-equipped aircraft during 2007-08 (following increases in oil prices), the ERA fleet has remained stable, with about 45 percent of the fleet in mid-2010 comprising turboprop-powered machines.