August 8, 2008 / 3:57 PM / in 9 years

Load results mixed for Canada's major airlines

CALGARY, Alberta, Aug 8 (Reuters) - Air Canada ACa.TO flew heavier loads in July as it cut capacity, while its main rival WestJet Airlines Ltd (WJA.TO), saw its loads fall as it added new planes, figures released on Friday show.

Air Canada said its planes were more crowded last month, despite a drop in passenger traffic, as it looked to cut its fuel costs by trimming capacity 1.8 percent.

Canada’s biggest airline said the load factor on its mainline system, a measure of how much available space is sold to passengers, rose 1.5 percentage points last month to 84 percent.

The airline, which also said on Friday its second-quarter profit fell 21 percent, flew 0.1 percent fewer passengers last month as ticket prices rose on fuel surcharges and U.S. routes weakened.

“Demand in North America has softened somewhat as the industry adjusts fares to reflect record prices for fuel,” Montie Brewer, Air Canada’s chief executive, said in a statement.

Air Canada, which said last month it would cut 2,000 jobs and cut capacity by 7 percent to cope with fuel costs, said it flew 4.65 billion revenue passenger miles in July, while available seat miles, its capacity measure, dropped to 5.54 billion.

The July load factor for Air Canada’s regional affiliate, Jazz Air JAZ_u.TO, fell to 72.1 percent, down 2.1 percentage points from the same month a year earlier. Passenger traffic slumped 7.1 percent to 367 million revenue passenger miles while capacity was cut by 4.3 percent to 509 million available seat miles.

WESTJET LOADS FALL

WestJet said on Friday its load factor fell to 79.7 percent in July, down 2.9 percentage points, as a big increase in capacity outstripped rising passenger traffic.

The airline, which announced a code-sharing agreement last month with Southwest Airlines Co (LUV.N), the biggest U.S. domestic carrier, said adding new aircraft pushed its available seat miles up to 1.56 billion, 23 percent above July 2007.

Despite adding a fuel surcharge in May, WestJet’s revenue passenger traffic rose 18 percent to 1.24 billion.

WestJet shares, which have dropped 12 percent over the past 12 months, rose 46 Canadian cents to C$14.61 on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

Air Canada’s class A shares slipped 5 Canadian cents to C$5.86. The stock is down 52 percent over the past 12 months.

$1=$1.07 Canadian Reporting by Scott Haggett; editing by Rob Wilson

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