WestJet reports record November load factor, strong growth in passenger traffic

WestJet Airlines Ltd. continues to enjoy strong demand as the airline recorded its fifth consecutive monthly record load factor in November amid a significant increase in passenger traffic.

The Calgary-based airline’s planes flew 82.6 per cent full in the month, up from 77.6 per cent a year ago.

WestJet (TSX:WJA) said it flew 114,000 more passengers in November than in the same month in 2011 as traffic increased 8.3 per cent on a 1.7-per-cent increase in capacity.

CEO Gregg Saretsky said November’s load factor beat the previous record set in 2010 by 4.9 percentage points.

“Our airline partnership strategy and growing number of business travellers are contributing to our positive momentum,” he stated.

Cameron Doerksen of National Bank Financial said WestJet’s traffic numbers are a clear indication of healthy air travel demand.

“The fourth quarter is shaping up nicely,” he wrote in a report, adding that his weekly surveys shows that airfare pricing in the domestic Canadian market remains strong.

“With this most recent record month, WestJet is on pace to exceed our 80.5 per cent load factor forecast for the fourth quarter.”

Doerksen said November’s numbers support his forecast of a 5.4 per cent in fourth-quarter revenues per available seat miles.

WestJet added that its frequent flyer program continues to grow with members now able to earn WestJet dollars on all hotel bookings and car rentals made through its website. That’s in addition to earning dollars for flying with WestJet, partner American Airlines, WestJet Vacations or using the WestJet RBC MasterCard.

Meanwhile, Porter Airlines said its planes flew 54.5 per cent full in November, a decrease from 65.9 per cent a year ago.

Traffic decreased 11.9 per cent on a 6.7-per-cent boost in capacity.

“We are encouraged to see passenger yield improve significantly from recent months,” stated president and CEO Robert Deluce.

He added that advance bookings for December are tracking well compared to last year and the winter season has “strong early trends.”

Air Canada (TSX:AC.B) will report its monthly traffic numbers later Wednesday.

On the Toronto Stock Exchange, WestJet’s shares gained 20 cents at $19.57 in morning trading.