Canada’s major airlines are reporting record load factors for December as they carried substantially more passengers with modest increases to capacity.
WestJet (TSX:WJA) says its load factor for December hit a record 81.9 per cent while Air Canada (AC.B) hit record load factors for the month and the year.
Montreal-based Air Canada says its load factor rose to 82.1 per cent last month while the full-year number was 82.7 per cent, up 1.1 points in each case.
Analysts monitor load factor as a measure of how much total fleet capacity is used by an airline to carry passengers.
Air Canada says it had a 3.2 per cent increase in passenger traffic last month over December 2011, with increases to U.S. destinations and on transatlantic routes.
That was a strong finish to a generally good year for Canada’s largest airline, which saw 2012 passenger traffic rise 2.6 per cent over 2011
Air Canada’s traffic increased to nearly 4.4 billion revenue passenger miles in December and nearly 12.6 billion RPMs in 2012 — roughly three times the traffic carried by WestJet.
WestJet’s passenger traffic in December was up 7.2 per cent from a year earlier, rising to 1.6 billion revenue passenger miles from 1.5 billion.
For the full year, WestJet’s passenger traffic was up 7.1 per cent to 4.5 billion RPMs from 4.2 billion RPMs.
WestJet’s December load factor was 81.9 per cent, up one point from a year earlier. Its full-year load factor was also 81.9 per cent, up 3.2 points from 2011.
Smaller regional rival Porter Airlines says it carried 2.45 million passengers last year, a 15 per cent increase over its 2011 levels.
The Toronto-based regional carrier serves about a dozen cities in eastern Canada and several U.S. destinations against Air Canada, its affiliate Jazz and WestJet.
Porter’s load factor for 2012 was 62 per cent, up from 61.7 per cent.
Porter says its December load factor was 64.3 per cent, with 77.8 million revenue passenger miles — an increase of 3.5 per cent a year earlier.