Canadian airlines fly fuller planes in December, 2012

Mon Jan 7, 2013 10:14am EST
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TORONTO (Reuters) - Canada's airlines flew fuller planes in December, with dominant carrier Air Canada ACb.TO and No. 2 rival WestJet Airlines (WJA.TO: Quote) reporting record monthly passenger levels on Monday.

Air Canada shares rose 5 percent after reporting that its load factor, or the percentage of available seats filled with paying customers, rose to 82.1 percent in December from 81 percent a year earlier.

The airline, which is preparing to launch a low cost vacation carrier this summer, said traffic increased by 3.2 percent in December as capacity, measured by available seat miles, rose 1.8 percent.

"The record December results highlight that overall air travel demand remains healthy across the geographic segments," said National Bank Financial analyst Cameron Doerksen in a note.

The analyst, who said Air Canada's fourth-quarter load factor bettered his forecast 79.5 percent, was reviewing his forecast.

Air Canada said its fourth-quarter load factor climbed 2.3 percentage points to 81.2 percent, while the full-year figure rose 1.1 percentage points to a record 82.7 percent.

Calgary-based WestJet said it reached a record December load factor of 81.9 percent, up from 80.9 percent in the same period last year, as traffic increased 7.2 percent and capacity grew 6 percent.

The airline's fourth-quarter load factor increased 3.2 percentage points to 81.9 percent, while its 2012 load rose to 82.8 percent from 79.7 percent in 2011.

Chief Executive Gregg Saretsky said December's load factor was the sixth consecutive monthly record and that forward bookings remain strong.   Continued...

An Air Canada Boeing 777 painted in a 2010 Winter Olympic Games motive is unveiled in Vancouver, British Columbia July 8, 2009. REUTERS/Andy Clark