April 3, 2009 / 10:01 PM / in 9 years

REFILE-UPDATE 1-Air Canada traffic stats weaken in March

(Refiles to fix typo in headline)

CALGARY, Alberta, April 3 (Reuters) - Air Canada ACa.TO said on Friday its load factor and traffic statistics weakened in March even as it slashed capacity, but the airline blamed much of the decline was because its year-ago figures benefited from the high-demand Easter holiday.

Air Canada, which parachuted in a new chief executive and operating officers this week, said its planes flew 81.8 percent full in March, down 1.8 percentage points from a year earlier.

Traffic, measured by revenue passenger miles, totaled 3.555 billion miles, down 13.1 percent, and capacity fell 11.3 percent to 4.345 billion available seat miles.

This year, Easter, when customers take to the skies to spend time with family for a long weekend, falls in April.

Air Canada is dealing with a tight cash position as it weathers the recession and stiff competition from rival WestJet Airlines Ltd (WJA.TO). It has been reducing its capacity over the past year to match lower demand.

“We will continue this disciplined approach to capacity management and will make adjustments as necessary to meet peak summer season travel demand,” new Chief Executive Calin Rovinescu said in a statement.

Rovinescu took over the top job on Wednesday from Montie Brewer, who had led Canada’s biggest airline since 2004. The new CEO was a player in Air Canada’s last restructuring six years ago, which has sparked speculation that another corporate overhaul may be in the cards.

Air Canada’s regional affiliate, Jazz Air LP JAZ_u.TO, had a hefty 7 percentage point drop in load factor to 69.5 percent in March.

Its traffic totaled 307 million revenue passenger miles, down 17.5 percent, as capacity fell 9.1 percent to 442 available seat miles. (Reporting by Jeffrey Jones; editing by Rob Wilson)

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