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AEA: European Airlines` September 2001 Traffic Results

The terrible events of September 11th, and the US Authorities` reaction to them in closing American airspace, left their mark on the European airlines` traffic figures…

The terrible events of September 11th, and the US Authorities` reaction to them in closing American airspace, left their mark on the European airlines` traffic figures.

Latest figures, to mid-October, give some indication of the new directions the market is taking according to the survey of Association of European Airlines (AEA<.>). In the five weeks from 10th September to 14th October, North Atlantic traffic is 36.2% down on the same period last year, with the market stabilising at about one-third down. In Europe, 9.6% of traffic has been lost, but the trend is worsening. On Far Eastern routes, the accumulated loss is 14.8%, but again, with a worsening trend.

The overall September outcome paints a picture which is more favourable than the emerging trends currently being experienced.

Evidently, the monthly totals are an aggregate of ten days of normal operation, a period of extreme disruption which extended beyond the four days` US shut-down, and a period in which some stability returned to the market, albeit very much depressed.

Passenger figures for the month were 11.9% down on September 2000. With the exception of continued growth in the Mid Atlantic market, traffic losses were registered across the network, ranging from minus 3.1% in Europe to minus 26.2% on the North Atlantic.

Load factors were badly hit once full service was resumed – evidently, the period of suspension of operations would not have affected them either way. Overall for the month, they were down 6.6 percentage points over last year, to 72.4%. On the North Atlantic the drop was 11.1 points and in Europe, minus 4.8 points.

If one excludes the four days of airspace closure, the capacity figures for September do not provide a great deal of evidence that widespread flight cancellations were taking place. Indeed, the airlines appear, for the most part to have reverted to the schedule they were committed to for the remaining part of the month.

Said AEA Secretary-General Karl-Heinz Neumeister: As market-driven enterprises, we would expect to see the airlines adjusting their capacity to the new conditions at the earliest convenient opportunity, the most obvious of which is the start of the Winter timetable season on October 28th.

However, under EU rules, airlines giving up slots from their Winter timetable 2001/2002 could lose them for ever. The Transport Council on 16th October has asked the Commission to analyse the situation urgently in order to take a position before the Winter season. As of today we have no indication that we shall get a favourable ruling in time.

The slot rule, he added, is equally applicable to overseas carriers serving EU airports. We can be sure that, under the circumstances, our US competitors will not be giving up their slots, but at least they have the cushion of huge injections of State Aid to secure their slots for Winter 2002/2003.

The market will recover, and we need the means to react when it does. If we can`t suspend services for fear of losing our slots and handing market share to our competitors, we can expect some sorry-looking load factors this Winter.

Theodore Koumelis
Co-Founder & Managing Director - Travel Media Applications | Website

Theodore is the Co-Founder and Managing Editor of TravelDailyNews Media Network; his responsibilities include business development and planning for TravelDailyNews long-term opportunities.