Air Canada, WestJet fly fuller planes in November

Thu Dec 6, 2012 5:30am EST

An Air Canada Jazz plane taxis after landing at Pearson International Airport in Toronto April 13, 2012. REUTERS/ Mike Cassese

An Air Canada Jazz plane taxis after landing at Pearson International Airport in Toronto April 13, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/ Mike Cassese

(Reuters) - Air Canada and WestJet Airlines, Canada's largest airlines, flew more passengers in November as demand for air travel remains robust, while regional carrier Porter Airlines reported a slump from last year's levels.

Air Canada, the country's biggest airline, said its load factor, or the percentage of available seats filled with paying customers, rose to 78.1 percent in November from 75.9 percent a year earlier.

Chief Executive Calin Rovinescu said last month's load factor was its second highest ever. The October load factor was a record 82.9 percent.

Traffic increased 4.6 percent as capacity rose 1.7 percent.

Traffic increased 6.9 percent in Asia Pacific markets, and 7 percent in the Australia, Caribbean, Mexico and Central and South America markets, the company said.

Calgary-based WestJet said its load factor increased to 82.6 percent, a new record, from 77.6 percent a year earlier.

WestJet's year-to-date load factor also rose 3.3 percentage points to 82.9 percent.

"Our airline partnership strategy and growing number of business travellers are contributing to our positive momentum," WestJet CEO Gregg Saretsky said.

Traffic was up 8.3 percent while capacity rose 1.7 percent.

Privately held Porter Airlines, a smaller short-haul carrier, reported emptier planes in November.

Toronto-based Porter reported a load factor of 54.5 percent, down 11.4 percentage points, from a year earlier.

Air Canada's shares closed at C$1.80, while WestJet shares closed at C$19.36 on the Toronto Stock Exchange on Wednesday. (Reporting by Sandhya Vijayan and Krithika Krishnamurthy in Bangalore; Editing by Joyjeet Das and Don Sebastian)