November 5, 2012 / 3:28 PM / 6 years ago

WestJet, Air Canada post record October passenger levels

TORONTO (Reuters) - Canada’s two largest airlines flew with record-setting passenger levels in October, as Air Canada and WestJet Airlines Inc kept a tight grip on capacity, while smaller, regional carrier Porter Airlines reported a slump from last year’s levels.

A West Jet Boeing 737-700 aircraft (top) passes an Air Canada plane while arriving at Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, British Columbia February 9, 2011. REUTERS/Andy Clark

Air Canada, the country’s biggest carrier, said on Monday that its October load factor, or percentage of available seats filled with paying customers, rose 3.5 percentage points to a record 82.9 percent.

The Montreal-based airline, which reports quarterly financial results on Thursday, said traffic increased 4.9 percent as capacity grew just 0.4 percent.

“This record load factor for the month and strong traffic results overall underscore the effectiveness of our ongoing disciplined approach to managing capacity,” Chief Executive Calin Rovinescu said.

Air Canada’s year-to-date load factor has improved to 83.2 percent from 82.1 percent in the same period last year. Traffic is up 2.4 percent, while capacity is 1.1 percent higher.

Calgary, Alberta-based WestJet, the country’s No. 2 airline, said its planes had record-setting passenger levels in October for the fourth straight month.

WestJet said its load factor rose to 81.2 percent from 77.4 percent a year earlier. Traffic increased 5.9 percent as capacity rose just 0.9 percent.

“Forward bookings remain healthy and momentum continues at WestJet,” said Chief Executive Gregg Saretsky.

Shares of the airline, which reports third-quarter financial results on Wednesday, added 9 Canadian cents to close at C$17.90 on the Toronto Stock Exchange on Monday.

Shares of Air Canada, which reported traffic data after the markets closed, gained 2.2 percent to end the session at C$1.80.

Year-to-date, WestJet’s load factor has climbed to 82.9 percent from 79.8 percent in the same period last year. Traffic is up 8.2 percent, while capacity is 4.2 percent higher.

Privately held Toronto-based Porter Airlines reported a load factor of 59.4 percent for October, down from 67.7 percent for the same period last year.

Traffic declined 7.5 percent, while capacity rose 5.5 percent.

“We are currently focusing on maintaining higher yields, so the change in load factor is expected with this approach,” said Chief Executive Robert Deluce.

Reporting by Susan Taylor; Editing by Peter Galloway and Phil Berlowitz

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