Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

British Airways Owner Tops Air France With 100 Million Customers

  • IAG reaps 8.5 million-passenger swing, aided by Aer Lingus
  • French company held back by terror attacks, pilot strikes

British Airways owner IAG SA’s passenger count jumped 14 percent to 100.7 million last year, propelling it past Air France-KLM Group by that measure for the first time.

Customer numbers were boosted by a full year of figures from Ireland’s Aer Lingus, which IAG purchased in 2015, together with gains at Spanish arm Iberia and the Vueling discount unit.

Air France-KLM’s tally rose 4 percent to 93.4 million, putting the group, which has its headquarters in Paris, more than 7 million passengers behind IAG after it had ended 2015 more than 1.5 million ahead. Even on a pro-forma basis the London-based company added 6.3 percent more patrons.

Air France itself actually lost customers in 2016, with the total down by 691,000, or 1.4 percent. Group figures were rescued by the addition of 1.8 million travelers at Dutch unit KLM and 2.5 million at low-cost arm Transavia.

IAG, as International Consolidated Airlines Group SA is known, didn’t give a breakdown of passenger figures at its individual airlines, providing figures only for traffic, or the number of people carried times the distance flown. On that basis British Airways expanded 2.2 percent, Iberia 5.1 percent and Vueling 13.2 percent.

While Air France is struggling to retain some long-haul clients, especially Asian tour groups, amid concerns about further terrorist assaults, the carrier could suffer less disruption this year as Jean-Marc Janaillac, its new chief executive officer, takes a more conciliatory stance on cost-cutting plans opposed by unions.

Conversely, British Airways faces its first strike since 2010 on Tuesday as cabin crew stage a two-day walkout over pay. Some 200,000 people are due to fly, though BA has said the “vast majority” of services will operate as normal and pledged to carry all passengers booked, though some will have to catch different departures.