The airline industry is in big trouble: Passenger numbers are falling, losses are piling up, and companies are fighting for survival.
All of them?
No, there is one exception:
Ryanair just announced the results of the year ending 3/09. Passenger numbers were up strongly, and according to its investors presentation, Ryanair is now Europe's biggest airline both by passenger numbers and by market value of its equity (though I am not sure if they included the various subsidiaries of Air France and Lufthansa when calculating their total passenger numbers). Ryanair did post a moderate loss, but that was mostly due to oil hedging contracts, which were hard to get right with the oil price fluctuating all over the place.
What's their secret?
The traditional players rely heavily on their business class passengers. Unfortunately, their numbers have been declining rapidly, whereas leisure trips have held up reasonably well. But traditional airlines cannot compete with budget airlines on the price of economy class tickets if their business class seats are half empty. Their business model does not work that way.
Another part of the reason is Ryanair's aggressive use of low-cost secondary airports. These airports struggle to cover their costs, and are willing to accept cut-throat pricing for their landing fees.
Anyway: For the moment, leisure trips are very affordable - even for penny-pinching consumers - due to the low oil price.
However, if (or rather: when) the oil price goes beyond 100$/barrel again, ticket prices will have to rise, and the low end of the market will also suffer.
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