Air Canada, WestJet planes flew emptier in December

Thu Jan 6, 2011 5:25pm EST
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OTTAWA (Reuters) - Air Canada and WestJet Airlines Ltd, Canada's two largest airlines, flew emptier planes in December as they boosted capacity, while the planes of smaller regional rival Porter Airlines were more crowded in the travel-heavy month.

Air Canada, the country's biggest carrier, said its December load factor, a measure of how full its planes were, dropped 0.4 percentage points from the year-before month to 80.8 percent.

The drop came as a 7.2 percent rise in traffic, measured in revenue seat miles, was outstripped by a 7.6 percent rise in capacity as the company boosted international flights.

"These strong results ... were achieved as we continued to increase utilization of our existing fleet and deploy capacity to pursues strategic opportunities in international markets," Calin Rovinescu, Air Canada's chief executive, said in a statement.

For the fourth quarter, Air Canada said its load factor rose to 78.8 percent, up 0.2 percentage points from the same period in 2009 on an 8 percent rise in traffic, while capacity increased 7.8 percent.

Its shares closed 6 Canadian cents higher at C$3.56 on the Toronto Stock Exchange on Thursday.


Despite its lower load factor in December, WestJet said it still expects final figures will show it had higher revenue per available seat mile (RASM) in the fourth quarter. The revenue that an airline earns from flying one seat one mile is a key industry measure.

"We expect improved RASM in the fourth quarter, which is in line with our previous guidance given in our third-quarter results," Chief Executive Gregg Saretsky said in a statement.   Continued...