Strikes Affect UK Air Travel— Not as Bad as Feared

Heathrow AirportNow that the BA strikes are (temporarily, perhaps) over, the UK can start assessing the damage they caused. In what may be a surprise, the damage reported by BAA does not seem as severe as expectd.

First, the bad news: BAA's UK airports as a whole handled a total of 8.2 million passengers in March, a decrease of 1.5 percent on the same month last year. The two periods of industrial action affecting British Airways caused an estimated net loss of 200,000 passengers across the UK airports, of which 180,000 were at Heathrow. That airport saw 5.2 million passengers travel through last month—an increase of 0.4 percent compared to March 2009.

Without strikes, however, BAA estimates that Heathrow would have recorded a growth of 3.8 percent on last year, while the Group as a whole would have seen an increase of 1 percent.

Glasgow (down 9.6 percent), Edinburgh (down 3.3 percent) and Aberdeen (down 4.4 percent) were all affected by the strikes, with each losing an estimated 1 to 2 percent of traffic for this reason.

Of airports unaffected by the strikes, Stansted's traffic declined by 4.2 percent compared to last March, demonstrating that challenging conditions remain. Southampton grew 5.3 percent, whilst Naples grew 5.7 percent.

European scheduled services across the group recorded a 0.1 percent increase and North Atlantic traffic was up by 1.7 percent. Other long haul traffic rose by 0.5 percent overall with services from Heathrow to China (up 10.9 percent), the Middle East (up 7.2 percent) and South America (up 6.8 percent) doing particularly well. Domestic traffic dropped 6.8 percent.

Across the group air transport movements fell by 6.6 percent in March, with Heathrow 6.5 percent lower. It is estimated that Heathrow lost 1,400 movements as a result of strike action, about 3.5 percent of its expected monthly total.

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