February 5, 2008 / 3:11 PM / 10 years ago

Air Canada, WestJet January load factor hit record

<p>An Air Canada flight crew walks past an aircraft at the Montreal headquarters on October 19, 2004. REUTERS/Christinne Muschi</p>

CALGARY, Alberta (Reuters) - Air Canada ACa.TO ACb.TO planes flew fuller in January as traffic outpaced capacity growth, while its largest rival also filled more seats on strong traveler demand, figures showed on Tuesday.

Air Canada said the load factor on its mainline system, a measure of how much space was sold to passengers, edged up to 78.7 percent in January from 78.6 percent a year ago.

The rise came despite capacity, measured in available seat miles, increasing by 3.3 percent to 4.7 billion.

Consolidated results for Air Canada, which include its mainline as well as its regional affiliate Jazz Air LP JAZ_u.TO, show the load factor rose to 77.9 percent -- a record -- in January from 77.8 percent a year ago.

WestJet Airlines Ltd’s (WJA.TO) load factor rose to 76.2 percent last month, up 0.3 percentage points from January 2007.

WestJet, Canada’s No. 2 carrier, said the January load factor was a record for the month and marked the 30th straight month the airline has set load factor records.

The airline’s capacity, measured in available seat miles, rose 15.7 percent to 1.36 billion. Revenue passenger miles rose 16.2 percent from the same month a year earlier to 1.03 billion.

Traffic figures for Air Canada’s Jazz affiliate show the airline’s January load factor climbed 0.1 percentage points to 69.4 percent in January. Capacity surged by 7.8 percent.

($1=$1.00 Canadian)

Reporting by Scott Haggett and Nicole Mordant; Editing by Janet Guttsman

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