Passenger numbers up - not the best time for a strike

On a key day for BA in its row with the Unite union, some good news for the UK's ailing airline industry...

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Some positive news for once from airport operator BAA: today it reported its first monthly rise in domestic passengers in two years, with the number of people jetting off to far-flung destinations also on the up. BAA herded 7.13m of us through its six British airports last month – a 2.4% rise in passengers on February last year. Of course, this doesn’t mean the airlines are through their spell of turbulence yet (as shown by Aer Lingus cutting 230 cabin crew jobs today). But if passengers are started to think about holidays again, it does mean that it’s a really bad time for BA’s staff to walk out on strike…

After a rotten 2009, BAA finally had something to smile about in February. The number of passengers passing through its flagship airport, Heathrow, was 5.3% up on the same month last year. Some of you may recall that lots of flights were affected by heavy snow (yawn) last February, so the figures are slightly inflated. But even stripping out the effect of the white stuff, BAA reckons there was a 2.7% rise in passengers at Heathrow. That’s a decent hike, by anyone’s reckoning. Domestic flights were up: 1.35m of us flew between British destinations last month. And long-haul traffic perked up too: the number of passengers jetting to China last month was up almost 7%, with the Middle East up 11.1% and South America up 17.6%.

Glass-half-full types may interpret this as a sign of the economy’s continued return to health. But BAA boss Colin Matthews was (as usual) sounding a more cautious note today, warning that airline traffic ‘remains depressed, reflecting tough conditions in the economy generally and in aviation specifically’. In other words, the ‘fasten seatbelts’ sign is still lit.

Speaking of reasons to be depressed, UK carrier BA is expected to respond today to a last-minute offer by the Unite union to avert a cabin crew strike – a move that could do untold damage to BA’s brand just as it seems to be through the worst. However, CEO Willie Walsh seems in no mood to compromise, judging by his hardball approach so far. And as the case of Aer Lingus proves – it’s just announced it will have to make 230 people redundant after cabin crew rejected a €97m cost-cutting plan – the potential strikers aren’t in a terribly strong negotiating position…

In today's bulletin:

Elio Leoni-Sceti out at EMI - and Charles Allen in
Future looks brighter for Northern Rock and Barclays
Passenger numbers up - not the best time for a strike
Degrees have been devalued, say graduate employers
Your route to the top: Seven ways to get noticed

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