Air Canada and WestJet Airlines both flew their planes with record percentages of the seats full in October as passenger traffic increased with only slight increases in capacity.
The country's largest carrier (TSX:AC.B) said planes in its domestic and international system were 82.9 per cent full in the month, up 3.5 percentage points from 79.4 per cent a year ago.
System traffic, including regional airlines, increased 4.9 per cent on a system-wide capacity increase of 0.4 per cent.
"This record load factor for the month and strong traffic results overall underscore the effectiveness of our ongoing disciplined approach to managing capacity and our award-winning product that continues to earn customers' loyalty," stated CEO Calin Rovinescu.
Traffic grew by 7.1 per cent on Atlantic routes, by 6.8 per cent on Pacific routes and by five per cent in Canada where planes were 83.2 per cent filled, up from 80.6 per cent a year earlier.
Traffic on routes to Australia, the Caribbean, Mexico, Central America and South America decreased 2.2 per cent.
WestJet Airlines flights flew 81.2 per cent full in October — the fourth month in a row of record high load factors for the Calgary-based company.
Traffic increased 5.9 per cent from last year while capacity grew 0.9 per cent.
WestJet said it flew 113,000 more passengers in October than a year ago.
"We are very pleased with the October results which easily outpaced the previous October load factor record of 78.1 per cent set in 2007," stated CEO Gregg Saretsky.
The load factor was up from 77.4 per cent in October 2011.
"Forward bookings remain healthy and momentum continues at WestJet."
Year-to-date, WestJet's load factor is up by more than three per cent to 82.9 per cent. Traffic is up 8.2 per cent on a 4.2 per cent increase in available seat miles.
Cameron Doerksen of National Bank Financial said WestJet's traffic numbers are a "clear indication that air travel demand remains very healthy so far in the fourth quarter."
WestJet (TSX:WJA) will report its third-quarter results on Wednesday, followed a day later by Air Canada.
"The record October traffic reinforces our positive outlook for WestJet," Doerksen wrote in a research note.
Porter Airlines, which flies turboprop planes on regular scheduled flights in competition with the other airlines, reported that its load factor dropped 8.3 points from last year to 59.4 per cent.
The privately owned regional carrier based in Toronto said its traffic or revenue passenger miles grew 5.5 per cent while its capacity shrunk 7.5 per cent.
"We are currently focusing on maintaining higher yields, so the change in load factor is expected with this approach," stated CEO Robert Deluce.
He added that hurricane Sandy has affected the airline's service to key markets, especially Newark, N.J., in November, but noted that Porter has resumed regular service to all airports.
Based at Toronto's Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport, Porter flies to cities in Ontario, Quebec and Atlantic Canada as well as a handful of destinations in the United States.
On the Toronto Stock Exchange, Air Canada's shares closed up four cents, or 2.27 per cent, to $1.80 in Monday trading. WestJet's shares gained nine cents to $17.90.