BAA getting back on the right path?

Some rare good news for BAA: Heathrow enjoyed its third-busiest month on record in July...

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Life got marginally better for BAA last month: the Spanish-owned firm saw 14.5m passengers trawl through its seven UK airports in July, down just 2.5% on the same month last year. This might not sound very good, but since it saw declines of 6% and 7.3% in the previous two months, it counts as a big step in the right direction. Not even the credit crunch can dissuade Britons from seeking sunnier climes, it seems – particularly when the weather’s as bad as it has been lately…

The most notable stat in today’s figure was that Heathrow alone handled 6.5m passengers in July – its third busiest month ever. It’s also a 0.9% increase on the June figure, and means that it’s now down a relatively respectable 3% for the year as a whole. There was good news elsewhere too – BAA also saw an increase of 1.2% in European scheduled traffic and 4.8% in long-haul traffic. Only the North American routes let the side down, with the number of people hopping on transatlantic flights down 8% (no doubt largely due to the ongoing decline in business travel).

BAA said that airlines have responded to the fall in passenger numbers by trimming schedules, leading to a 5.1% decline in the total number of planes leaving and arriving from its UK airports. This is a mixed blessing for all concerned. On the one hand, the airlines are operating with fuller planes, so they’re running more efficiently; on the other, they have to mothball all these unused planes in a hangar somewhere, gathering dust and depreciating. Equally, fewer take-offs and landings might make BAA’s life easier, but it also means that they miss out on those lucrative landing charges.

Airline bosses may find a crumb of consolation in some research undertaken by Barclaycard Commercial, which suggests that the travel plans of the UK’s (extremely lucrative) business passengers are at least likely to remain unaffected by the pesky green agenda. The survey found that, of the 15% of business travellers who anticipated travelling less this year, a measly 1% will be doing so as a result of a company environmental policy. Then again, the bad news is that 60% will be travelling less due to the economic pressures – and as far as the airlines are concerned, that’s just as bad.

Nor is the green issue likely to go away: Barclaycard also found that a large number of frequent fliers believe airlines should be levied with a ‘green tax’, to compensate for the effect of carbon emissions on the environment. Surprisingly, most are happy for the cost to be passed on to customers, with 62% saying they are willing to foot the bill. The things we Brits will do for our sunshine break...

In today's bulletin:

Job cuts slowing - except in the public sector
Music to HMV's ears as Fox rules out ITV switch-over
BAA getting back on the right path?
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