Canadian airlines report record demand for August flights

Thu Sep 6, 2012 5:05pm EDT
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TORONTO (Reuters) - Canadian airlines reported record demand for the travel-heavy month of August on Thursday as ticket sales strengthened, while capacity increases were tightly controlled.

The country's largest airline, Air Canada ACb.TO, said its load factor, or the percentage of available seats filled with paying customers, rose to record high of 87.9 percent, a whisker above 87.8 percent in August 2011.

WestJet Airlines Ltd (WJA.TO: Quote), Canada's No. 2 carrier, said code-share and interline pacts with other airlines helped lift its August load factor to a record 88.9 percent from 83.3 percent a year earlier.

Traffic at Air Canada increased just 0.7 percent, while capacity, measured in available seat miles, rose 0.6 percent.

"This record load factor result for the month underscores our disciplined capacity management," Chief Executive Calin Rovinescu said in a statement after markets closed.

The strongest load factor gain was in Air Canada's domestic flights, a 1.2 percentage point increase. On U.S. transborder flights, it rose half a percentage point and the Atlantic market declined by 1.5 percentage points. The load factor in the Australia, Caribbean, Mexico and Central and South America market rose 1 percentage point.

Year-to-date, the airline's load factor has climbed to 82.9 percent from 82.3 percent, with traffic up 2 percent and capacity just 1.3 percent higher.

Air Canada shares dipped 1 Canadian cent to end at C$1.06 on the Toronto Stock Exchange on Thursday.

Shares of Calgary-based WestJet closed 3.4 percent, or 57 Canadian cents, higher at C$17.14.   Continued...