Easyjet has become the third airline this week to report a jump in monthly passenger figures as European carriers continue to show signs of improvement.

The Luton-based airline, Europe’s second largest budget carrier by passengers after Ireland’s Ryanair, said its paid seat numbers had risen 12 per cent in March from a year earlier, more than some analysts had expected.

Ryanair said on Monday its booked seat figures had jumped 8 per cent in March from the same month a year ago.

On Tuesday, International Airlines Group, parent of the recently merged British Airways and Iberia, said its combined passenger traffic, as measured by revenue passenger kilometres, or fare-paying passengers multiplied by distances flown, had gone up by 9 per cent in March from the same month last year.

BA pushed up the group’s results with a 12 per cent increase in traffic following poor figures last March when its cabin crew walked out in the first of 22 days of strikes that eventually cost more than £150m last year.

Iberia’s traffic rose only 2.7 per cent in March. Both carriers saw improvements in traffic in all parts of the world except their home markets of the UK and Spain, where their numbers fell 2 per cent.

IAG said the group’s traffic in important business and first class seats, which make up less than 50 per cent of most airline’s seats but often contribute more than half passenger revenues, grew by 18 per cent in March.

It estimated that after taking last year’s strikes into account, the underlying trend in this so-called premium traffic was slightly better than in February.

As passenger traffic numbers show signs of improvement, however airlines around the world continue to struggle with rising oil prices, now at a 2 ½ year high of more than $120 a barrel.

Many carriers have raised fuel surcharges, including BA which on Tuesday put its charges up for the third time in less than four months.

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