Europe's Airlines, Airports Continue to Struggle

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According to the BBC, Air France-KLM has said it plans to cut between 2,500 and 3,000 jobs over the next two years. Europe's biggest airline will cut jobs by not renewing contracts or replacing retiring employees, the carrier said, avoiding compulsory lay-offs.

The airline has been hit by the global economic slowdown, with passenger traffic down 9.4 percent in March. They weren't alone: Airport operator BAA reported that its UK airports handled a total of 10.6 million passengers in March, a reduction of 11.3 percent against the same month last year. Around 2-3 percent points of the reduction can be attributed to the fact that, in 2008, the Easter travel peak was in the third weekend of March, whereas this year the main peak did not begin until April.

European scheduled traffic was down by 11 percent and UK domestic by 8.6 percent. North Atlantic traffic was 17.6 percent lower while other long haul routes recorded a collective drop of 5.6 percent in passengers. Balanced against those reductions, across the group, passenger traffic to India increased by 1.8 percent, 0.1 percent to the Middle East and 8.9 percent to SouthAmerica.

Among individual airports, Heathrow remains the most resilient, with traffic declining by only 7.5 percent (not taking account of the Easter effect). This is partly because of Heathrow's greater share of stronger long-haul markets, but is also due to rising numbers of transfer passengers, which underpin the airport's role as the UK's hub airport.

At other individual airports, not surprisingly, it was those with the largest elements of leisure traffic that experienced the biggest traffic reductions in March. Gatwick was down by 17.7 percent, Stansted by 15.9 percent, Glasgow by 13.0 percent and Southampton by 12.3 percent. In contrast, Edinburgh was 3.6 percent lower compared to last year and Aberdeen dipped by 8.1 percent.

In total, the number of air transport movements at BAA airports was 4.1 percent down on last March; however, Heathrow and Aberdeen both had increases of 1.7 percent and 1.2 percent respectively. Cargo tonnage decreased by a total of 15.7 percent.

But not all news from Europe’s airlines was so glum: The BBC reported that a secondary school near Heathrow Airport has been given £350,000 by BAA to install new windows to help lower noise pollution.


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