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British Airways

BA traffic down

Oct 05, 2009

LONDON - British Airways carried 0.8 percent fewer passengers in September year-on-year, dashing hopes air traffic demand was recovering from the deep slump caused by the global recession.

The airline, whose alliance with American Airlines and Iberia is being scrutinised by Europe's competition watchdog, said on Monday that its premium, or business class, passengers continued to tumble, falling 7.9 percent on the 2008 figure.

Non-premium traffic rose 0.7 percent.

Its load factor -- a measure of how well it fills planes -- rose 2.4 percentage points to 81.3 percent but the airline said it expected to deliver year-on-year growth by early 2010.

"In January, the comparative figures take another step down and there's every chance of getting into positive territory then," George Stinnes, BA's head of investor relations told reporters on a conference call.

"Until then we see traffic flattening and steadying."

Stinnes said "discussions continue" with Iberia over a merger and that talks could come to head "sooner rather than later" once the issues surrounding governance were ironed out.

British Airways shares, up over 15 percent in the past month on hopes the airline industry may be through the worst of its downturn, were up 2.3 percent before the announcement and were 1.8 percent higher at 214.1 pence by 1425 GMT.

Air traffic demand is recovering from the slump caused by the economic downturn but the industry remains well away from a return to profit, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) said late last month.

IATA said it expected a loss of $11 billion for the industry in 2009 and a $3.8 billion loss in 2010.

However, Hong Kong's leading air carrier Cathay Pacific Airways on Monday reported its best weekly passenger load factor for 2009 last week, while Irish airline Ryanair carried 17 percent more passengers last month than it did a year earlier.

BA traffic down
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