WestJet, Porter see record-high demand in August

Thu Sep 6, 2012 10:40am EDT
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(Reuters) - WestJet Airlines Ltd (WJA.TO: Quote), Canada's No. 2 carrier, said on Thursday that code-share and interline pacts with other airlines helped boost demand to a record level in August.

Calgary-based WestJet said its load factor, or the percentage of available seats filled with paying customers, rose to a record high 88.9 percent in August from 83.3 percent a year earlier.

The news helped lift WestJet shares by nearly 2.8 percent to C$17.03 on the TSX on Thursday morning.

Traffic increased 9.2 percent, while capacity, measured in available seat miles, rose just 2.3 percent.

"The demand environment remains strong and we are seeing a growing contribution from our airline code-shares and interline partnerships," Chief Executive Gregg Saretsky said in a statement.

Under code-share deals, airlines sell space on each other's flights, which can boost revenue as they can offer more destinations to passengers while controlling costs.

Interline pacts, often a precursor to full code-share deals, allow customers to purchase one ticket for a trip involving multiple airlines.

National Bank Financial analyst Cameron Doerksen said WestJet will likely report a third-quarter load factor well ahead of his forecast of 81.5 percent.

"With the load factor trending well ahead of expectations and fuel costs so far in the quarter largely in-line with our estimate, we believe our Q3 EPS estimate of C$0.43 (versus C$0.28 last year and the consensus of C$0.39) is probably too low," Doerksen said in a note.   Continued...