* Aug load factor rises to 63.9 pct vs 52.5 pct
* Break-even load factor 49 pct
* From now will release monthly traffic figures
VANCOUVER, Sept 21 (Reuters) - Porter Airlines said on Tuesday it flew more passengers in August versus a year earlier as the small regional carrier started releasing monthly traffic statistics like its bigger Canadian rivals.
Porter said its load factor -- the percentage of available seats filled with paying passengers -- rose to 63.9 percent last month from 52.5 percent in August 2009.
“The improvements shown in 2010, particularly in the second half of the year, largely reflect a fully deployed 20-aircraft fleet as of this spring,” Porter President and Chief Executive Robert Deluce said in a statement.
Porter broke even at a load factor of 49 percent in 2009, Deluce said, a level much lower than its bigger industry rivals, Air Canada ACb.TO and WestJet Airlines Ltd (WJA.TO).
The lower load factor puts Porter “in a very good position for the rest of this year, given the type of numbers we are posting,” said Deluce, who founded the airline four years ago.
Porter said its available seat miles, the total number of seats it offered, rose 69 percent in August to 99.7 million.
Revenue passenger miles, calculated by multiplying numbers of passengers by distance flown, increased 105 percent to 63.7 million.
“Beginning a standard disclosure process summarizing our monthly traffic will help inform the market about Porter’s competitive positioning,” Deluce said.
The carrier, which offers short-haul flights in Eastern Canada and into the United States, has been trying to raise its profile with investors as it considers an initial public offering.
Porter pulled a planned C$120 million ($116.5 million) IPO in June as investor appetite for new stock issues waned at a time of choppy equity markets. But Deluce has said an IPO is still an option, as are other forms of public financing.
The airline has created a loyal following among some in Toronto’s business community who like its universal business class service as well as the proximity of its airport hub, the Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport, to the downtown core.
The airport is on the lakefront just minutes away from Bay Street, compared with the 45-minute commute to the much larger Pearson International Airport, Air Canada’s main hub.
Despite its newness, Porter has started nipping at the heels of the country’s biggest airlines on routes in Eastern Canada, the busiest in the country.
Earlier this month, Air Canada reported a flat load factor of 86.8 percent for August while WestJet said its dipped to 82.2 percent from 84.5 percent a year ago. In general though, air travel demand has improved this year after a sharp slowdown last year during the recession.
$1=$1.03 Canadian Reporting by Nicole Mordant; editing by Rob Wilson