If you think the wintry weather’s been a hassle for you recently, spare a thought for BAA: the beleaguered airport owner reckons Britain’s big freeze cost it 150,000 passengers last month. Admittedly, BAA’s passenger numbers were nose-diving even before the bad weather hit: the total for 2009 was 4.2% down on the previous year’s figure. But with snow still on the ground and the recession still in full swing, it’s no surprise that BAA thinks the outlook looks equally bleak for 2010. Its period of turbulence could continue for a while yet...
The pre-Christmas cold snap certainly didn’t do BAA any favours. Its Scottish airports – which were also hit hard by the collapse of the airline Flyglobespan – suffered the biggest drops: passenger numbers for the year as a whole were down an eye-watering 11.3% at Glasgow and 9.4% at Aberdeen. But with the recession constraining travel spending and forcing people to cut back on short-term flights, BAA’s regional airports further south didn’t fare much better: Stansted saw a drop of 10.7% over the year, while Southampton was down 8.2%. Ouch.
But it wasn’t all bad news for BAA and its Spanish owners Ferrovial. At Heathrow, its main airport, passenger numbers were down 1.5% on 2008 – not ideal, but it could have been a lot worse. Although short-haul routes have taken a hammering, flights to far-flung destinations like Asia, Africa and Australia have so far remained pretty resilient (apart from North Atlantic traffic, which is down by 5.7%). And the passenger decline did at least slow in the last three months of the year, despite the weather. In fact, at Heathrow, December traffic was actually up 1.2% on 2008.
BAA chief exec Colin Matthews will hope this is a sign of things to come, although he still sounds fairly cautious about the year ahead. ‘2009 was a difficult year for our airline customers. Towards the end of the year, we saw signs of improvements, particularly at Heathrow, but there are more challenging times ahead in 2010,’ he warned. He’s not wrong there.
Given its record losses and its constant clashes with the competition regulator (ultimately resulting in the forced sale of Gatwick), we suspect that BAA will be keen to forget 2009. Unfortunately, there are no signs of clearer skies ahead in 2010.
In today's bulletin:
Co-op leads latest parade of high street winners
BAA battered as 150,000 passengers fail to fly
Editor's blog: Getting out of the Abbey habit
A Traveller's Tale: Predictions for the world in 2010
MT Expert's Ten Top Tips: Get more from your staff in 2010