May 5, 2008 / 10:00 PM / in 10 years

WestJet streak of rising loads ends at 15 months

CALGARY, Alberta (Reuters) - WestJet Airlines Ltd (WJA.TO), Canada’s No. 2 carrier, said on Monday it filled a smaller percentage of seats in April, ending a streak of rising load factors at 15 months.

Calgary-based WestJet said its planes flew 82.5 percent full last month, down slightly from 82.8 in April 2007.

The company’s capacity, measured by available seat miles rose 21.1 percent to 1.37 billion, and traffic increased 20.5 percent to 1.3 billion revenue passenger miles.

One reason for the decline in April’s load factor was that the Easter holiday fell in March, which helped bolster that month’s statistics, WestJet Chief Executive Sean Durfy said.

Last week, the company reported a 76 percent increase in profit for the first quarter, which beat analyst expectations. However, the WestJet has said it is considering surcharges and higher fares to make up for rising fuel bills.

Its fuel costs have jumped 29 percent in the past year as oil prices have hit successive records. Crude climbed above $120 a barrel for the first time on Monday.

Shares in WestJet fell 68 Canadian cents, or 4 percent, to C$16.35 on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

A spokeswoman for Air Canada, the country’s biggest airline, said its traffic numbers will be released later this week. Air Canada is scheduled to release first-quarter results on Thursday.

($1=$1.01 Canadian)

Reporting by Jeffrey Jones; editing by Rob Wilson

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