May 1, 2012 / 11:51 AM / in 6 years

UPDATE 1-WestJet profit soars as it flies fuller planes

May 1 (Reuters) - WestJet Airlines Ltd, Canada’s second-largest airline, reported a 42 percent rise in first-quarter earnings as it flew more passengers despite fare increases.

WestJet also said it selected Bombardier Inc to supply 20 aircraft for its new regional airline, expected to launch in the second half of 2013.

The company said earnings rose to C$68.3 million, or 49 Canadian cents per share, from C$48 million, or 34 Canadian cents, in the same period last year.

Analysts on average had forecast earnings of 39 Canadian cents per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Revenue at the airline, which competes with No. 1 carrier Air Canada, increased 15.4 percent to C$891 million.

Load factor -- the percentage of available seats filled with paying customers -- rose to 83 percent from 82 percent last year.

“We achieved our highest first-quarter load factor, improved the overall yield and made good progress towards our return on invested capital target,” WestJet CEO Gregg Saretsky said, adding revenue growth outpaced higher fuel costs.

First-quarter costs per available seat mile (CASM) rose 4.2 percent, while revenue per available seat mile (RASM) rose 6 percent.

Shares of Calgary, Alberta-based WestJet closed at C$14.23 on Monday on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

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