Finnair SVP Commercial Division Allister Paterson, speaking at CAPA’s Airlines in Transition conference in Dublin, stated (11-Apr-2013) Finnair is still working to lower its cost base, saying “CASK is king”. Finnair is still addressing political nationalism and labour issues, he noted. While Finnair is following peers into this type of restructure, Mr Paterson says one advantage is that there are examples to learn from. “We’re just starting to get the right discussion.”
AIT Dublin: Finnair still addressing political nationalism, labour to lower CASK
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European airlines: 1H2016 results show a widening gap between the haves and have-nots
The last of Europe's leading listed airline groups reported 1H2016 results on 19-Sep-2016. This now allows analysis of the aggregate trends for the 15 largest European airline groups listed on the stock market that publicly report financial results for the first six months of the calendar year. These groups account for 53% of ASKs flown to/from/within Europe by all airlines and 71% of ASKs flown by European airlines (week of 19-Sep-2016, source: OAG).
Collectively, these 15 groups enjoyed an improvement in operating margin in 1H2016 versus 1H2015. This was achieved in spite of heavy downward pressure on unit revenue – thanks largely to lower fuel prices, which allowed them to cut unit costs more rapidly. However, there was a wider range of levels of profitability in the individual results compared with last year.
Moreover, in margin terms, there was a trend towards the strong getting stronger and the weak getting weaker. Further, there has been a number of profit warnings in the sector – particularly since the UK's Brexit referendum. This may mean that further improvements in the aggregate results of Europe's listed airline sector will be harder to achieve in 2017.
Europe's aviation strike spike could signal a cyclical peak - with downturn to follow
One swallow does not make a spring and nor does a rash of aviation strike news guarantee a turning point for the aviation industry. But the signs are ominous. In the month of Jun-2016 (to 20-Jun-2016), there have been 136 articles on CAPA's website mentioning the word 'strike'. This compares with 81 for the first 20 days of Jun-2015. For 2016 so far (1-Jan-2016 to 20-Jun-2016), the 's' word has occurred in 594 articles – about 20% more than in the same period in each of the past two years. If this rate continues, 2016 could be the biggest year for strike-related articles since before the global financial crisis.
The vast majority of the Jun-2016 articles – 80% – relate to Europe. A significant source is air traffic control disputes, particularly French ATC. There have also been strikes and/or strike threats involving airport workers and ground handlers. Among European airlines, Air France has generated the most coverage for its ongoing dispute with its pilots, and it may also face a cabin crew strike. Lufthansa has not yet faced a strike by its employees this year, but has not yet reached new agreements with pilots or cabin crew after industrial action last year.
History tells us that labour's demands grow as profits rise. The apparent increase in industrial action this year could be a signal of an approaching peak in the airline profit cycle. There are other causes of unrest, such as impending French labour legislation, but the correlation reflects some history.