Aer Lingus anticipates a “small operating profit” in 2H2009, Finnair traffic improving

Shares in Aer Lingus rose 3.9% on Friday, upon the release of the carrier’s traffic report for 2009 and expectations of reporting an operating profit for 2H2009.

Aer Lingus' traffic rose 3.1% year-on-year to 10.7 million for the 12 months ended 31-Dec-2009, as short-haul traffic jumped 5.7% year-on-year. However, long-haul passenger numbers dropped 16.1% year-on-year in the period to 1.1 million, reflecting its revised route structure. Overall passenger load factor was up 1.2 ppts to 75.7%, with additions to both short and long-haul load factors, of 1.0% and 0.6%, respectively.  

The Irish carrier anticipates that demand will “remain soft” in 1H2010 and will continue to focus on capacity management to enhance its load factor and improve yields. Aer Lingus expects to report a “small operating profit” before the affect of one-off exceptional items in its 2H2009 results, due to cost saving efforts, including long-haul capacity reductions and “tactical” route cancellations, and better than expected yields in the period.

Meanwhile, Aer Lingus announced the deferral of two A320s, from Oct/Nov-2010 to Apr/May-2011. The carrier plans to reduce the number of aircraft based at London Gatwick from five to three A320s by Mar-2010, with a commensurate reduction in the number of destinations served from the base. The move at London Gatwick reflects “weak consumer demand and continuing challenges in the UK operating environment”. Aer Lingus established the base at London Gatwick in Dec-2008. The carrier will continue services from London Gatwick to Malaga, Dublin, Knock and Cork. Aer Lingus also dismissed reports that it plans to review its Belfast base, and has no plans to change capacity, as it is “performing well” there.

Finnair passenger numbers fall more than 10%

Finnair also released its traffic highlights for the 12 months ended 31-Dec-2009. Passenger numbers decreased 10.1% year-on-year to 7.4 million for the year, as RPKs declined 9.0% year-on-year on a 9.8% capacity (ASKs) reduction. Passenger load factor was up 0.7 ppts to 75.9%. Meanwhile, cargo volumes dropped 12.6% to 89,234 tonnes. Its shares rose 2.7% on Friday.

Elsewhere, gains of the European airline stocks included Lufthansa (+2.9%), SAS (+2.5%), Air France-KLM (+0.3%), while falls included British Airways (-0.4%), Aeroflot (-1.2%) and Aegean Airlines (-1.7%). Turkish Airlines dipped 1.8% on Friday.

Europe selected airlines daily share price movements (% change): 08-Jan-2010