Report: Travel to Europe Increases in February

Some good news for Europe this month: Trans-Atlantic is reporting that travel from the Americas to Europe increased in February by an average 2.5 percent on the leading carriers on a daily basis (February, of course, had an extra day this year). That may decline when results for other carriers are added later this month, the report noted. For instance, in January, trans-Atlantic traffic for ALL carriers rose only 0.6 percent, compared to 2.3 percent for the leading carriers.

Travel by Americans to Europe rose 2.1 percent in January to 580,304, according to the latest figures from the U.S. Department of Commerce. That was less than the average 3.3-percent growth in U.S. travel to Europe over the previous six months.

Now for the bad news: The leading carriers also reported an average daily capacity decrease of 1.2 percent for February and an impressive average load factor of 71.0 (up from 68.1 a year ago).

The leading European trans-Atlantic carriers reported mixed results for 2011. IAG (British Airways/ Iberia) reported a big jump in annual profit to $664 million compared to $110 million in 2010. But Air France/KLM lost more than $1 billion on the year on revenues that rose 4.5 percent to $31.6 billion. Last fall, Air France (now on a January-Deccember fiscal year) returned Chairman Jean-Cyril Spinetta to the CEO’s seat to pilot a three-year “transformation program” with a focus on rewriting labor pacts.

Lufthansa reported a $17 million loss (down from a $1.5 billion profit in 2010) on total revenue of $37 million, up 8.3 percent. Most of the loss was blamed on negative valuations for BMI, which Lufthansa is selling to IAG; operating profit was actually a healthy $1 billion. The European Commission may ask IAG to give up more BMI slots at Heathrow. A potential BA monopoly of London-Scotland service is also a concern.

All three groups worried about further escalation of fuel prices, strikes past and future, and economic weakness and low-cost carrier competition in Europe. Earlier, Delta and United reported profits for 2011, while American, in bankruptcy, reported a big loss.