Planes are fuller than ever, meaning fares are under pressure
The beginning of January is always heralded with the release of traffic statistics from Europe’s airlines for the previous calendar year. 2017 has proven to be a vintage year for most of the continent’s major carriers.
Our chart this week shows the passenger traffic (as measured in revenue passenger kilometres, the number of kilometres flown by paying passengers) compared with capacity (as measured in available seat kilometres, the total available if all seats were filled by paying passengers) for nine airlines.
Sources: Annual reports, traffic releases. Note: * Ryanair and easyJet figures are for fiscal 2017 rather than calendar 2017
Lufthansa (the individual as opposed to the group) remains the largest of Europe’s carriers in terms of both capacity and traffic, slightly ahead of British Airways and Air France. Ryanair and easyJet should also be highlighted as their networks are purely short-haul, unlike the legacy carriers.
All of the carriers featured increased traffic and capacity in 2017 and load factors stand at a very full 75% or more, with most in excess of 80%. Fuller planes means higher fares in most cases. It is worth noting that the two low-cost carriers both have load factors above 90% (easyJet 92.6% and Ryanair 94%).
With global trade recovering and economics looking well set for 2018, airlines look set to enjoy another good year with buyer having more difficulty in keeping air spend under control in Europe.