Europe's Midsize Airlines Are Getting Squeezed

As carriers such as Iberia lose altitude to cut-rate competitors, they also face takeover threats from high-flying giants like Air France-KLM

Europe's big airlines are flying high. After weathering a drop in travel after September 11, 2001, ticket sales at the continent's major long-haul operators and low-cost carriers are soaring thanks to strong economic growth and expanding demand from domestic travelers. According to the European Airlines Assn. (AEA), the passenger load factor in Europe, or percent of occupied seats, has now reached 76.5%, up nearly 6 points since 2001.

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