Low cost airlines growing fast

[September 5th 2008]

easyJet plane

Despite the credit crunch, high oil prices and the gloomy economy, low cost airlines continue to attract more passengers.

Europe’s largest low fares airline, Ryanair, and rival easyJet have announced their latest passenger figures for August which show massive increases over August 2007.

The number of passengers flying with Ryanair in August grew by a staggering 19% to 5.78 million. And easyJet’s statistics are even more impressive, as passenger numbers year on year rose by 23.7% to 4.59 million.

It’s easy to put the increase in passengers using these budget airlines down to the increased number of routes and flights they are now offering. But the load factors, or occupancy levels, reveal that there is simply more demand for low cost flights.

Ryanair’s load factor for August 2008 was 90%, down marginally on the 91% recorded in August 2007, but still extremely healthy. easyJet even managed to increase its load factor year on year, up from 87.4% in August 2007 to a very commendable 91.3% in August 2008.

Of course August is the prime time for summer holidays and you might expect flights to be full. The awful August weather in the UK this year no doubt also persuaded more people to take flights to the Mediterranean and other popular destinations where sunshine is pretty much guaranteed.

Ryanair is confident about the public’s appetite for low cost air travel. “Our rapidly growing passenger numbers come at a time when many airlines, which are facing huge losses, are raising fares and fuel surcharges in an attempt to turn these losses around. However, the reality is that this has driven their passengers to Ryanair. Now even more passengers realise that low fare, fuel surcharge free, travel is still possible – but only with Ryanair,” says the airline’s head of communications, Stephen McNamara.

While Ryanair may be bullish now about passenger numbers continuing to remain strong – “as competitors continue to raise their high fares and fuel surcharges and haemorrhage more passengers to Ryanair,” it says in its statement – the real test for it and other low fares airlines is likely to come next year as the economy worsens and a full blown recession looms.

Written by: Nick Purdom


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