WestJet flies fuller planes in January

TORONTO Tue Feb 5, 2013 12:16pm EST

A Westjet Boeing 737-700 takes off at the International Airport in Calgary, Alberta, May 3, 2011. REUTERS/Todd Korol

A Westjet Boeing 737-700 takes off at the International Airport in Calgary, Alberta, May 3, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Todd Korol

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TORONTO (Reuters) - WestJet Airlines Ltd, Canada's second-largest carrier, said on Tuesday its January load factor, or the percentage of available seats filled with paying customers, was a record 80.9 percent, up from 79.9 percent a year before.

Traffic, as measured by revenue passenger miles, climbed 7.7 percent year over year, while capacity, which is measured in available seat miles, was up 6.4 percent from a year before.

"The January load factor was the seventh consecutive monthly record for WestJet, a clear indication of healthy air travel demand," said Cameron Doerksen, an analyst with National Bank Financial.

"The company also indicated that forward bookings remain strong so we anticipate continued strong traffic numbers in the coming months."

Shares of WestJet, which will report its 2012 fourth quarter and year-end results on Wednesday, were up 2.6 percent at C$22.40 at midday on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

Porter Airlines, a privately owned Canadian short-haul airline, reported a load factor of 53.6 percent in January, down from 55.7 percent a year ago.

Porter saw an increase in traffic of 0.8 percent and a 4.7 percent rise in capacity year over year. (Reporting by Solarina Ho; Editing by Gerald E. McCormick and David Gregorio)