Flying planes full makes airlines far more profitable, and it’s better for the environment.
Flying would be great if there weren’t so many other passengers. But for airlines and for the environment, nothing is worse than flying planes that are half full.
If load factor falls below a certain level, the airline loses money and will eventually go out of business. Raising load factor, however, is like getting free money, because scheduled flights have to fly no matter how many tickets are sold.
High load factor is also good environmentally, as it means lower emissions per passenger.
The newspaper the Telegraph has published research into which airlines fly the most packed planes, and which operate the emptiest.
For all its alleged flaws, the Irish low-cost giant Ryanair is “an efficient beast”, the article says, with load factor stats that are “the envy of the world”. For the first seven months of 2017 it stood at 94.7% – rising to as high as 96% for the period between April and December.
This helps to explain why Ryanair’s estimated profits this financial year will be €1.58 billion – more than the world’s biggest airline American Airlines.
American has around 80 million more passengers per year than Ryanair but a load factor of 82.6%. So it made the equivalent of €1.55 billion in profits in 2017.
8 million empty seats
The load factor at easyJet was 92.1% last year. But British Airways’ planes flew only 81.2% full on average last April to December, which meant almost 8 million empty seats during the period.
Poor load factors also include Flybe at 76% for the April-September period, Austrian (76.8%), Emirates (77.2 %) and Virgin Atlantic (78.8 %).
But the global average is growing, to 81.4% in 2017. Around 70% used to be the world average before 2000.