DALLAS – Passenger flew fewer miles on Southwest Airlines Co. in August but they paid more per mile than a year ago.
The company, which also owns AirTran Airways, said Monday that passenger revenue for every seat flown one mile rose 4 per cent compared with August 2012. That follows an increase of 4 per cent to 5 per cent for July.
The figure is a closely watched statistic in the airline business, and it rises when airlines are able to charge higher average fares either by raising prices or selling fewer tickets at discounted sale prices.
Last week, Delta and US Airways reported similar increases in the revenue figure. Helane Becker, an analyst for Cowen and Co., said the trend was due to strong demand and more late bookings — travellers who buy tickets on short notice usually pay higher fares.
Southwest said that traffic dropped 2 per cent, as passengers flew 9.17 billion miles last month, down from 9.36 billion miles in August 2012.
Southwest and AirTran added seats, however, with capacity rising 1.4 per cent. Part of that increase came from longer average trips — up 4.8 per cent, to 1,007 miles.
Because traffic dropped and capacity increased, the average flight was less full. Occupancy averaged 81.3 per cent last month, down from 84.2 per cent in August 2012.
In the first eight months of the year, traffic has inched up by 0.8 per cent, capacity has expanded by 1.6 per cent, and the average flight has been 80.3 per cent full, down from 80.9 per cent in the same period last year.
Shares of Dallas-based Southwest rose 7 cents to $13.17 in midday trading Monday. They are down 9.5 per cent from their high of $14.56 set on May 21. Over the past 52 weeks, they traded as low as $8.68 last October.