Air Canada planes fuller in February, WestJet's emptier

Mon Mar 5, 2012 5:14pm EST
 
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(Reuters) - Air Canada's ACb.TO cabins were fuller in February than in the same month a year ago as rising passenger traffic, led by busier Canada-U.S. transborder routes, outpaced growth in capacity at the country's biggest airline, data on Monday showed.

Air Canada said its system load factor, which includes regional airlines that it buys capacity from, rose to 76.8 percent from 75.9 percent in February 2010.

System traffic increased 6.5 percent while the airline's system-wide capacity rose 5.3 percent.

"Led by an increase in traffic in the U.S. transborder market of 10.7 percent, we generated greater traffic in all markets Air Canada serves," Chief Executive Calin Rovinescu said in a statement.

Meanwhile, the CEO at WestJet Airlines Ltd WJA.TO said its forward bookings look sound even as the carrier reported slightly emptier planes in February.

Canada's second-biggest airline said its load factor dipped to 82.7 percent last month from 83.6 percent as an increase in capacity outpaced a rise in passenger traffic.

Capacity rose 10.9 percent while traffic increased 9.9 percent.

Forward bookings "are healthy", WestJet CEO Gregg Saretsky said in a statement.

The month of March, which includes the spring break school holiday across Canada, is typically a strong traffic month, National Bank Financial analyst Cameron Doerksen said in a note to clients.

Small regional carrier Porter Airlines reported a record February load factor of 56.1 percent, 5.5 points higher than in the same month a year ago.

(Reporting By Nicole Mordant in Vancouver; editing by Rob Wilson)