CALGARY, Alberta (Reuters) - Canada’s major airlines’ planes flew fuller in December and for all of 2007 as they benefited from a strong domestic economy in the face of a downturn in the U.S. industry.
Air Canada ACa.TO, the largest carrier, and WestJet Airlines Ltd. (WJA.TO), the No. 2 player, both said on Monday they racked up monthly and annual gains in load factors and capacity as they added to their fleets of aircraft.
Air Canada said its mainline load factor, the proportion of aircraft seats filled by passengers, rose half a percentage point to 78.8 percent in December from a year earlier.
Its capacity for the month rose 1.6 percent to 4.5 million available seat miles and revenue passenger miles jumped 2.3 percent to 3.6 billion.
The Montreal-based airline’s load factor for all of 2007 rose 0.2 points to 81 percent, it said.
Air Canada Chief Executive Montie Brewer said in a statement he was particularly pleased with the carrier’s domestic business and pointed out that its system-wide traffic is outpacing capacity growth as it adds new Boeing 777 and Embraer aircraft.
WestJet said its load factor rose to 79.3 percent last month, up 1.3 percentage points from December 2006, despite a 15.2 percent rise in capacity.
Available seat miles rose to 1.32 billion last month from 1.15 billion a year earlier.
Revenue passenger miles rose 17.1 percent year over year to 1.05 billion, from 896 million in December 2006.
“We ended 2007 with a fleet of 70 Boeing Next-Generation 737s and believe we are well positioned to add seven more aircraft in 2008,” Sean Durfy, WestJet’s chief executive, said in a statement.
For the year, Calgary-based WestJet’s load factor rose 2.5 percentage points to 80.7 percent.
Jazz Air JAZ_u.TO, Air Canada’s regional carrier, reported a 72.4 percent load factor for December, up 0.9 percentage points from the same month in 2006, as capacity increased 2.5 percent to 442 million available seat miles.
Revenue passenger miles totaled 320 million, up 3.8 percent from December 2006.
Full-year load factor at Jazz rose 2 percentage points to 72.3 percent, it said.
Reporting by Jeffrey Jones and Scott Haggett; Editing by Peter Galloway