Full-year traffic figures released by Air France-KLM show a continued discord between the carriers’ individual performances as the smaller Dutch unit experienced the strongest growth while the French arm’s figures were negatively affected by strikes and anti-government protests.

KLM Royal Dutch Airlines saw a 4.5% increase in passenger numbers in 2018, to 34.2 million, compared to the 0.4% rise at Air France and its regional subsidiary HOP!, to 51.4 million.

For December, KLM carried 7.2% more passengers than in the same period in 2017, while Air France’s passenger numbers for the month dropped 0.2%. The group said that anti-government protest movements in France at the end of last year had a “negative impact” on revenues, estimated at about €15 million ($17.3 million).

KLM’s full-year RPK traffic rose 4% against a 3.2% increase in ASK capacity, resulting in a 0.7% increase in load factor to 89.1%. Conversely, Air France and HOP!’s RPK traffic in 2018 increased by 1.9% on a 1.4% capacity growth, leading to a 0.5% load factor rise to 86.2%.

Air France-KLM’s Transavia unit reported the strongest full-year traffic increase at 10.1% on an 8.4% growth in capacity, causing load factors to rise 1.4% to 92%.

“Last year, the KLM Group [including Transavia Netherlands] welcomed 43 million passengers on board. It’s a great achievement that all of us at KLM, as a whole, can be proud of,” KLM CEO Pieter Elbers said in a separate statement.

When combined, traffic across Air France, KLM, HOP! and Transavia grew 3.5% on 2.7% more capacity, resulting in a 0.7% load factor increase to 87.9%. The group as a whole recorded a 2.8% increase in full-year passenger numbers, which exceeded 100 million for the first time.

Air France-KLM’s 3Q financial results, released in October 2018, also highlighted the difference in fortunes between the Dutch and French carriers. KLM posted a €573 million operating profit for the three-month period ending Sept. 30, 2018, compared with the €493 million operating result reported by Air France.

Air France-KLM CEO Benjamin Smith is working on a new strategic plan for the group. With new leaders also recently installed at Air France and its main pilots’ union, SNPL, the French side of the airline group will be hoping for a smoother ride marred by fewer strikes in 2019.

Kerry Reals, kerry@realsreporting.com