European airline stocks held onto recent gains Wednesday as investors continued to reward better load factors born out in recent passenger data, just weeks ahead of the first-quarter reporting season.

Price action came on the tail of a surge in airline stocks Tuesday, where Lufthansa AG (DLAKY) led the way taking its one week gain to nearly 4%. The stock is up by more than 10% for the month to Tuesday, which puts it far ahead of the 4.6% gain for the Stoxx Europe 600 TMI Airlines index during the same period. 

The German airline said that passenger volumes rose by 14% year on year in March while the group load factor improved by 80 basis points to 77.2%. This was after accounting for the effect of a 9.9% increase in its overall capacity to carry passengers.

Recent performance is part of a broader move to the upside for Europe's airline stocks as analysts and investors position for the first quarter earnings season. It comes despite recent terrorist attacks in Stockholm, St Petersburg and London that have all risked discouraging tourists from international travel on the continent and hampering the near term performance of airlines. 

Load factors were a key source of gains, with those reporting the strongest growth in capacity utilization drawing the stronger offer from the market Tuesday.

easyJet plc (EJTTF) said last week that passenger numbers grew by 10.6% in March and that its load factor improved 1.4%, leading to a 7% gain for the stock over the last seven days. The shares reached a high of 1,081 pence in London Wednesday.

Ryanair plc (RYAAY) - Get Report , which is now Europe's largest airline by passenger volume, also saw customer numbers grow by 10% during the month. However, the aggressively expansionist company saw its load factor hold steady at 94% for the period. Nonetheless, its stock rose by 3.8% during the seven days to Wednesday.

Topping the industry leader board KLM Air France (AFLYY) stock jumped more than 5.8% during the recent week, paring much of the 10% loss racked up in March, in response to positive data released Monday. It saw traffic grow by 4.6% and its load factor improve by 10 basis points to 85.3%.

Elsewhere in the sector British Airways owner International Consolidated Airlines Group (ICAGY) notched up a 0.5% return Wednesday which helped to bring its one week gain to 3.4%.

Much of the return was the result of the carrier group having updated the market on the launch of its own budget airline, Level, which took place on March 17. Level saw more than 700,000 visits to its website during its opening weeks and sold more than 100,000 tickets.

The latest round of earnings reports gets under way on April 27 when Lufthansa will release first quarter numbers.