* WestJet June load factor rises to 79 pct
* WestJet Q2 load factor at record 81.6 pct
* WestJet says bookings for July, August “remain strong”
* Porter June load factor dips, says outlook bright
TORONTO, July 5 (Reuters) - WestJet Airlines Ltd, Canada’s No. 2 airline, flew fuller planes in June than it did a year earlier and said reservations remain strong for the following two months, the busiest of the year for Canadian airlines.
The Calgary-based carrier said its load factor, or the percentage of available seats filled with paying customers, rose to 79 percent in June from 75.7 percent a year earlier.
Traffic increased 6.7 percent in June, while capacity, measured in available seat miles, grew 2.3 percent.
Privately-owned Canadian regional carrier Porter Airlines also reported numbers for June on Thursday and said its load factor fell to 62 percent from 64.6 percent, as traffic rose 4.1 percent and capacity climbed 8.5 percent.
“Numbers for June, although slightly less than in 2011, met our expectations,” said Chief Executive Robert Deluce, noting that Porter’s traffic was boosted in June 2011 by a brief strike at Air Canada, the country’s biggest airline, as sales and customer service agents walked off the job.
At WestJet, the second-quarter load factor rose to a record 81.6 percent from 78.1 percent in the year-before period. Quarterly traffic increased 7.4 percent as capacity rose just 2.9 percent.
“With WestJet indicating that forward bookings remain strong for July and August, we expect yields to support its outlook for slightly moderated growth relative to the 6 percent growth rate in Q1,” said National Bank Financial analyst Cameron Doerksen in a note.
WestJet, which launched service to New York’s La Guardia Airport in June, also said it will increase weekday flights to La Guardia to eight from seven starting July 12.
Porter said its second-quarter load factor edged up to 61.5 percent from 59.7 percent in the same period last year, as traffic increased 17.5 percent and capacity rose 14 percent.
“Our second-quarter and year-to-date numbers made gains and the outlook for the full year continues to be good,” Deluce said.
Air Canada was expected to release its traffic figures later on Thursday.
WestJet shares rose as high as C$16.94 on the Toronto Stock Exchange on Thursday morning, their highest level in four years, before edging down slightly to C$16.91, a gain of 19 Canadian cents.