Latest Updates From Europe's Airlines

This last week was a busy one for Europe's skies. Here's what you may have missed from airlines across the continent:

First, some numbers: The IATA reported that February's international passenger traffic rose 5.5 percent compared to the same period last year. Capacity rose 5.8 percent and load factor slipped .2 percentage points to 76.8 percent. 

IATA said in a press release that "all regions recorded year-over-year increases in demand. European carriers’ international traffic climbed 5.8 percent in February compared to the year-ago period, the strongest growth among the three largest regions."

Capacity rose 5.7 percent and load factor was stable at 77.4 percent. Growth in the manufacturing and services sectors has now reached rates not seen since the first half of 2013, according to JPMorgan/Markit’s surveys of purchasing managers, and growth is also occurring in major economies like France.

The Airlines

The biggest news was a walkout by Lufthansa's pilots that effectively grounded Germany's largest airline and may have cost the company as much as 75 million euros. As a result of the strike, Lufthansa was only able to offer about 10 percent of its standard daily schedule, and approximately 3,800 flights were canceled. An estimated 425,000 passengers were expected to be affected by the strike, around 20,000 of whom were rerouted to train lines, and the airline switched others to the remaining members of the airline group, Star Alliance airlines or external carriers.

Other airlines had better news to share, however: SAS announced that it would launch services between Stavanger and Houston on August 20, making it easier for leading players in the oil industry to connect Norway (and the rest of Scandinavia) and Houston, Texas. The route will be operated by a business version of the Boeing 737-700 and will have an SAS Long Haul Business Class concept on board, which offers 44 business seats and full-service meals and service.

Further good news came from LOT Polish Airlines, which announced last week that it had ended 2013 in the black. The airline posted an $8.6 million net profit, its first annual profit since 2008. It also had an operating loss of $1.3 million, but the result was $45.6 million better than expected in LOT's current financial and corporate restructuring plan. By operating the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, LOT said it gained as much as $31.4 million in revenue for 2013 and carried 80 percent more business and premium class passengers than in the previous year. 

Thanks to the financial support of the Vienna Tourist Board, Austrian Airlines has branded a Boeing 777 to mark the occasion of the Life Ball 2014, an AIDS charity that raises funds for the support of people living with HIV and AIDS. This Boeing aircraft with the special Life Ball design is flying around the world to destinations such as Tokyo or Bangkok. Austrian Airlines will bring guests from New York to Vienna in the official Life Ball aircraft on May 30.

Delta, meanwhile, introduced new sleep kits and updated amenities for passengers seated in the airline's economy cabin on long-haul international flights. In addition, on all transatlantic flights of 3,850 miles or less from the U.S. to Europe, customers in the economy cabin will receive a full-size bottle of water following meal service. Economy cabin travelers will also receive updated snack offerings for morning and afternoon/evening arrivals. A mid-flight ice cream service will also be offered on these flights returning from Europe to the U.S.

In further news from Delta, the airline and Virgin Atlantic Airways announced that they are becoming closer partners at London’s Heathrow Airport. Delta moved its arrival and departure terminal for several important business markets including London to New York-JFK, London to Boston, and new London to Seattle services to Heathrow's Terminal 3. The airline says it should be convenient for many travelers and save time on certain connections. The two airlines have also introduced a dedicated New York-to-London schedule.