Fewer passengers fly Aer Lingus

INDUSTRIAL disputes and a paring back of routes meant Aer Lingus carried about a sixth fewer passengers last month than a year ago.

The airline was wrapped up in a series of industrial disputes with cabin crew over longer working hours, resulting in a number of flight cancellations in the month.

In January 552,000 passengers were booked to fly with Aer Lingus, a 17% drop on last year. The flight cancellations meant the numbers who actually flew were 4% below the booking levels.

The company’s booked load factor, which is a measure of seats filled, fell by 3.6 points in January to just under 64%.

The short-haul booked load factor was 62.8%, a drop of 4.8 points on January 2010, while the long haul-booked load factor was 65.7%, a decrease of 1.3 points.

In figures released yesterday the airline said short-haul booked passengers were 504,000 last month, a 17.1% decrease on the previous January, while long-haul booked passengers in January were 48,000, a decrease of 15.8% on January 2010.

The three-week standoff with 215 cabin crew over longer working hours ended on Friday with crew agreeing to work the new rosters in exchange for clarification over meal breaks, time-off and the length of tours of duty.

Goodbody analyst Eamonn Hughes said the dispute over the past fortnight serves to highlight two issues.

“Firstly, while agreement is welcome and delivery of the cost savings is now back on track, the savings being achieved are being eroded by the rising oil price in recent months, representing a major headwind for the company.

“Secondly, while it is the traditionally weak January and February period, bookings are likely to have been impacted in quarter one somewhat from the recent actions,” he said.

Davy analyst, Joshua Goldman said: “We applaud both parties for coming to a relatively quick resolution to the industrial dispute and do not foresee any material future negative financial impact due to the most recent agreement.

“As suspended cabin crew will be reinstated to payroll and normal duties, we also do not believe there will be any staff shortages going forward.”

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