January 5, 2012 / 9:39 PM / 6 years ago

Canadian airlines see modest passenger rise in December

TORONTO (Reuters) - Canada’s airlines filled slightly more seats in December as traffic rose more quickly than capacity.

Air Canada ACb.TO said on Thursday that its load factor, the percentage of available seats filled with paying customers, rose to 81.0 percent, from 80.8 percent in the same month last year.

While capacity, measured in available seat miles, rose 2.8 percent, traffic increased by 3.0 percent.

WestJet Airlines Ltd’s (WJA.TO) load factor rose 0.6 percentage points to 80.9 percent. Capacity rose 7.1 percent, while traffic was 8.0 percent higher.

Canada’s No. 2 airline also said strong bookings would boost a revenue benchmark that it had previously forecast would be hurt by late school breaks.

In December WestJet said late holiday bookings meant revenue per available seat mile, used to compare revenue performance among airlines, would grow 4 to 5 percent in the fourth quarter, not the 5.8 percent seen in the previous quarter. [ID:nL3E7N52P4] Thursday’s forecast was more optimistic.

“Due to strong bookings made and flown in December, WestJet anticipates that the year-over-year revenue per available seat mile growth for the fourth quarter will now be closer to that achieved in the third quarter of 2011,” the company said in a release.

Closely held regional carrier Porter Airlines said its December load factor rose to 63.9 percent from 62.4 percent, as capacity rose 26.7 percent, and traffic increased 29.9 percent.

Reporting By Allison Martell; editing by Rob Wilson and Janet Guttsman

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